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N. Korea reopens cross-border communications with S. Korea

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reopened a key cross-border communication channel with South Korea for the first time in nearly two years today as the rivals explored the possibility of sitting down and talking after months of acrimony and fears of war.

The sudden signs of easing hostilities, however, came as President Donald Trump threatened Kim with nuclear war in response to his threat earlier this week.

In his New Year's address Monday, Kim said he was willing to send a delegation to next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea. But he also said he has a "nuclear button" on his desk and that all U.S. territory is within striking distance of his nuclear weapons, comments Trump latched onto Tuesday when he boasted of a bigger and more powerful "nuclear button" than Kim's.

The two leaders exchanged crude insults last year, as the North received new U.N. sanctions over its sixth and most powerful nuclear test explosion and a series of intercontinental ballistic missile launches.

The recent softening of contact between the rival Koreas may show a shared interest in improved ties, but there's no guarantee tensions will ease. There have been repeated attempts in recent years by the rivals to talk, but even when they do meet, the efforts often end in recriminations and stalemate.

Outside critics say Kim may be trying to use better ties with South Korea as a way to weaken the alliance between Washington and Seoul as the North grapples with toughened international sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs.

Kim's latest announcement, which was read by a senior Pyongyang official on state TV, followed a South Korean offer on Tuesday of high-level talks with North Korea to find ways to cooperate on next month's Winter Olympics in the South and discuss other inter-Korean issues.