Pyongyang to reopen hotline ahead of talks with Seoul | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 07.06.2013
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Asia

Pyongyang to reopen hotline ahead of talks with Seoul

Pyongyang has taken another step to ease tensions with Seoul after months of discord. This comes after the two sides agreed to hold talks - but it is still not clear where or when this will happen - or at what level.

North Korea said on Friday that it would soon reopen a Red Cross hotline with the South, which would allow the two governments to arrange the details for bilateral talks to be held in the next few days.

The North had shut down the line back in March as tensions between the two Koreas over Pyonyang's nuclear test rose.

Friday's statement, reported by the North's officials Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), quoted an unnamed spokesman from Pyongyang's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK).

"We appreciate the fact that the South side promptly and positively responded to the proposal made by us for holding talks between the authorities of both sides," the statement said.

However, it wasn't immediately clear whether Seoul had agreed to Pyongyang's proposal. South Korea's Unification Ministry said it was "studying" the offer, according to the AFP news agency.

North Korea's counteroffer followed an invitation from the South to hold cabinet-level talks in Seoul next Wednesday on a number of issues including the jointly run industrial park located in Kaesung, just north of the demilitarized zone that separates the bitter rivals.

Date and location still unclear

The two sides had already agreed in principle on Thursday to hold talks, but Pyongyang's counteroffer included some key differences to what the South had envisaged.

"It is our view that working contact between the authorities of the North and the South is necessary prior to ministerial-level talks proposed by the South side," the CPRK statement said.

It also said any meeting should be held in Kaesong on Sunday instead of in Seoul on Wednesday. Reopening the city's industrial complex is expected to be a key topic of the negotiations, no matter where and when the two sides agree to meet.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the announcement that the North had decided to reopen the lines of communication.

"This is an encouraging development towards reducing tensions and promoting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,"a statement released by his spokesman said.

Tensions between the two Korea's were also expected to feature high on the agenda when US President Barack Obama hosts Chinese President Xi Jingping in California beginning later on Friday.

China, which is the North's only major diplomatic ally, was also critical of Pyongyang after it had unleashed a barrage of threats against the South in response to the new Security Council sanctions.

pfd/kms(Reuters, AFP, AP)

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