South Korea says North Korea is planning to restore a cross-border communications channel Wednesday.
The South’s Unification Ministry says the North’s state-run radio station made the announcement in a broadcast earlier in the day. The channel, based in the border village of Panmunjom, located in the demilitarized zone that separates the bitter rivals, will be restored sometime after 3 p.m. local time (0600 GMT).
The reopening of the hotline is the first significant sign that both sides are ready to re-engage diplomatically after years of rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un used his annual New Year’s Day address to call for direct talks with Seoul and to announce his willingness to send a negotiating team to South Korea before the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month.
Seoul responded Tuesday by offering to hold talks with North Korean diplomats next week, January 9, in Panmunjom. The meeting would be the first high-level talks between Seoul and Pyongyang since December 2015.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has welcomed Kim’s suggestion of bilateral talks, but insists that any improvements on inter-Korean relations must occur in tandem with Pyongyang’s abandonment of its nuclear weapons program.