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South and North Korea make contact on communication line

By UPI Staff
South and North Korea make contact on communication line
A South Korean government official communicates with a North Korean officer on the Demilitarized Zone in the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea. Photo courtesy of Unification Ministry/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- South and North Korea made contact on a re-established communication channel running through the truce village of Panmunjom on Wednesday.

North Korea made the first contact at the appointed time, and a 20-minute conversation from 3:30-3:50 p.m. took place, Seoul's Unification Ministry said, according to Yonhap.

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The phone line had been out of use for two years.

The phone call on Wednesday did not address major policy issues, but instead "checked technical issues of the communication line," the ministry said.

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There were no discussions of North Korea's participation in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

The development came after a North Korean official announced through state-run media that the communication line would be reconnected, under the orders of leader Kim Jong Un.

Ri Son-kwon, chairman of the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, said the hotline would be used to discuss practical matters on dispatching a North Korean delegation to the Games.

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"Reflecting the intentions of the leadership, we will seek close ties with the South in an earnest and sincere manner," he said.

Ri added that the North Korean leader "positively and highly regarded" the South's response to his suggestion of sending a North Korean team to the Olympics and making the arrangements through urgent talks with Seoul.

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Kim reportedly emphasized that "the issue of improving inter-Korean ties according to the wishes of the people" depends on how the discussions take course.

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However, South Korea's presidential office welcomed the North's decision to restore the communication channel, deeming it a "significant step towards holding regular talks."

The North cut off the hotline installed at the Panmunjom liaison office, as well as a military channel in February 2016, in protest of South Korea's shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

On Tuesday, South Korea suggested using the inter-Korean hotline as a means to arrange the North's participation in the Winter Olympics as well as set up a high-level dialogue to potentially discuss other areas of mutual concern.

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