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(2nd LD) N. Korea to reopen communication channel with South

2018/01/03 14:28

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(ATTN: UPDATES with more info throughout)

SEOUL, Jan. 3 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Wednesday that it will reopen a suspended inter-Korean communication line after leader Kim Jong-un extended an overture to Seoul in his New Year's Day message.

The North will open the dialogue channel at the shared border village of Panmunjom at 3:00 p.m. (Pyongyang time), according to the state-run TV station.

The announcement came a day after Seoul proposed high-level inter-Korean talks to discuss North Korea's possible participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and ways to improve ties.

"By upholding a decision by the leadership, we will make close contact with South Korea in a sincere and faithful manner," said Ri Son-gwon, the head of North Korea's agency handling inter-Korean affairs. "We will discuss working-level issues over our potential dispatch of the delegation."

   But he did not specify whether the country would accept Seoul's offer for high-level talks next week.

On New Year's Day, North Korean leader Kim said that his country is willing to send a delegation to the Olympics in South Korea and is open to inter-Korean talks over the matter.

The North cut off two inter-Korean communication channels -- a hotline installed at the liaison office at the truce village and a military channel -- in February 2016 in protest of Seoul's shutdown of a joint industrial complex.

Technically speaking, the hotlines are not physically severed, but the dialogue channel is not operating, as North Korea has not responded to South Korean officials' daily contact attempts over the phone.

Kim "highly appreciated and welcomed" President Moon Jae-in's support of his peace offer, according to Ri.

"The leader stressed that whether inter-Korean ties can be improved totally depends on North and South Korea," the official said.

South Korea's unification ministry welcomed the North's restoration of the cross-border channel.

"We will consult with North Korea over working-level issues in connection to our dialogue offer through the hotline," the ministry said.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr

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