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(LEAD) Two Koreas restore Red Cross hotline at truce village: official
By Sam Kim
SEOUL, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korea reopened its Red Cross hotline with South Korea at their joint truce village on Wednesday as promised, an official said, as the communist state continues to appeal for talks with Seoul in an apparent bid to draw much-needed assistance.

   Liaison officials of the two countries made their first contact in nearly eight months on the hotline installed at Panmunjom, a Unification Ministry official said. North Korea shut down the line in May last year after South Korea condemned the country for the deadly sinking of its warship.

   The reopening of the hotline comes as North Korea steps up its charm offensive toward South Korea despite tension that soared after the North shelled a South Korean border island on Nov. 23, killing two marines and two civilians.

   Earlier this week, the North announced it would reopen the Panmunjom Red Cross hotline and the Consultative Office for North-South Economic Cooperation in its western border town of Kaesong, proposing that the sides quickly resume cross-border dialogue.

   South Korea has dismissed the offers as "insincere," demanding the North first take actions that account for the sinking and the shelling. Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said this week that the North must also be able to confirm its commitment to denuclearization in its talks with the South.

   North Korea has traditionally shunned discussions on its nuclear arms development in dialogue with South Korea, saying the activity is aimed at deterring a U.S. invasion.

   samkim@yna.co.kr
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