North Korea Says To Reopen Hotline With South, Seeks Weekend Talks

by
Reuters
North Korea said it would reopen a Red Cross hotline with South Korea on Friday and invited officials from Seoul to talks over the weekend, a further sign Pyongyang wants to improve ties after a barrage of threats to wage war earlier this year.

North Korean soldiers greet the North's leader Kim Jong-Un during his visit in the southwest of Pyongyang

North Korea said it would reopen a Red Cross hotline with South Korea on Friday and invited officials from Seoul to talks over the weekend, a further sign Pyongyang wants to improve ties after a barrage of threats to wage war earlier this year.

On Thursday, North Korea proposed talks to normalize commercial projects, including a joint industrial zone it shut down at the height of tensions in early April.

Pyongyang's moves come ahead of a summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama on Friday in California. North Korea's actions, including its latest nuclear test in February and threats to attack South Korea and the United States, are likely to be high on the agenda.

North Korea stopped responding to calls on the Red Cross hotline in March. Another hotline, used by military officials, remains shut.

"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 North's official KCNA news agency quoted a spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea as saying.

The two Koreas have not held talks since February 2011.

South Korea has proposed cabinet level talks on June 12 in Seoul to discuss a range of issues including commercial projects and families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War.

In response, Pyongyang invited South Korea to a working-level meeting on Sunday in the border city of Kaesong, where South Korean companies employed 53,000 North Korean workers to make cheap household goods until Pyongyang ordered it closed.

Tensions escalated on the peninsula after the United Nations imposed new sanctions on North Korea for its February 12 nuclear test, the country's third. North Korea also claimed that two months of joint U.S.-South Korean military drills that ended in late April were a prelude to an invasion.

The international community condemned North Korea for its recent threats. China, the North's major diplomatic ally, was also critical.

China told a North Korean delegation that visited Beijing late last month that the country should stop conducting nuclear tests and focus on economic development, a source with knowledge of the talks told Reuters.