North Korea reopens cross-border communications with South Korea

In in which handout image provided by the South Korean Unification Ministry, A South Korean government official checks the direct communications hotline to talk with the North Korean side at the border village of Panmunjom on January 3, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea.

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In in which handout image provided by the South Korean Unification Ministry, A South Korean government official checks the direct communications hotline to talk with the North Korean side at the border village of Panmunjom on January 3, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea.

Outside critics say Kim may be trying to use better ties with South Korea as a way to weaken the alliance between Washington as well as Seoul as the North grapples with toughened international sanctions over its nuclear as well as missile programs.

Kim’s latest announcement, which was read by a senior Pyongyang official on state TV, followed a South Korean offer on Tuesday of high-level talks with North Korea to find ways to cooperate on next month’s Winter Olympics inside South as well as discuss additional inter-Korean issues.

Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the state-run Committee for the Peaceful Reunification, cited Kim as welcoming South Korea’s overture as well as ordering officials to reopen a communication channel at the border village of Panmunjom. Ri also quoted Kim as ordering officials to promptly take substantial measures with South Korea out of a “sincere stand as well as honest attitude,” according to the North’s state TV as well as news agency.

South Korea quickly welcomed Kim’s decision as well as later confirmed in which the two Koreas began preliminary contacts on the channel.

Since taking office last May, South Korea’s liberal President Moon Jae-in has pushed hard to improve ties as well as resume stalled cooperation projects with North Korea. Pyongyang had not responded to his outreach until Kim’s fresh Year’s address.

Relations between the Koreas soured under Moon’s conservative predecessors, who responded to the North’s expanding nuclear program with hard-line measures. All major rapprochement projects were put on hold one by one, as well as the Panmunjom communication channel has been suspended since February 2016.

Moon has pushed for more pressure as well as sanctions on North Korea, nevertheless he still favors dialogue as a way to resolve the nuclear standoff. The Trump administration says all options are on the table, including military measures against the North. Moon has repeatedly said he opposes any war on the Korean Peninsula.

Some observers believe these differences in views may have led Kim to think he could drive a wedge between Seoul as well as Washington as a way to weaken their alliance as well as international sanctions.

Talks could provide a temporary thaw in strained inter-Korean ties, nevertheless conservative critics worry in which they may only earn the North time to perfect its nuclear weapons.

After the Olympics, inter-Korean ties could become frosty again because the North has made in which clear in which has no intention of accepting international calls for nuclear disarmament as well as instead wants to bolster its weapons arsenal inside face of what in which considers increasing U.S. threats, analysts say.

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