Analysts warn Trump to watch his words as N.Korea reopens hotline to South

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/3 20:48:39

Trump should watch his words: analysts

People watch news about the improved relationship between South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) at a train station in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 3, 2018. South Korea's presidential palace Blue House welcomed the reopening of Panmunjom communication channel with the DPRK Wednesday. (Xinhua/Lee Sang-ho)

North Korea restored a long-suspended phone hotline with South Korea on Wednesday in a sign of easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula despite US President Donald Trump's latest tirade on the North.

China welcomed the friendly gesture on the peninsula, and experts warned the US president to watch his words and not break the positive atmosphere.

North Korea and South Korea held their first cross-border phone conversation on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the possibility of allowing a North Korean delegation to participate in the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, the Yonhap News Agency reported. This came after Kim Jong-un said in his New Year speech on Monday that he would consider sending a delegation to the Games.

"China welcomes the move of the two sides on the North's participation in the Olympic Games to improve bilateral relations and the possible denuclearization of the peninsula," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

"The positive signals sent by North and South Korea, the main parties of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, have set a good start for 2018. Although the risk of possible conflicts remains, there is still hope for solving the nuclear issue through diplomatic and peaceful ways," Da Zhigang, director of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

Da said that the two sides could use the Olympic Games to create a good atmosphere for future bilateral and multilateral communications and economic and cultural exchanges.

"North Korea's participation in the Winter Games would help ease tensions in the region. Reopening the communication channel, which was severed since early 2016, would also promote dialogue between the two Koreas," Lü Chao, a researcher on North Korea at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

North Korea's desire to attend the Games was hailed by many parties. South Korean President Moon Jae-in welcomed Kim's willingness to enter into dialogue and called for swift measures to facilitate its participation, Yonhap reported.

Chinese experts said North Korea's move shows that UN sanctions over Korean missile and nuclear tests are working.

"Several rounds of sanctions from the UN Security Council have severely affected North Korea's economy and Kim needs to use the Winter Olympics to present an image of peace amid condemnation of its nuclear program," Lü said.

Prevailing uncertainty

"Kim's shift in strategy could also be regarded as part of efforts to sow discord among China, the US and South Korea on their efforts to push North Korea to give up nuclear weapons," Lü said.

Despite encouraging signs on the Korean Peninsula, US President Donald Trump touted the US' nuclear capability in a tweet on Wednesday.

"North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.' Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"

"North Korea has achieved progress on its nuclear program. However, technological bottlenecks have stifled its combat capabilities. Kim was just using words to put pressure on the US," Da said, adding that the international community has seen too many heated verbal exchanges between North Korea and Trump.

But Lü warned that the exchanges have escalated in recent months since Trump tweeted a nuclear threat, which the international community should take note of. Both countries are unwilling to start a war as it would cost the US much more militarily than before, and North Korea may be destroyed, said Lü.

Newspaper headline: N.Korea reopens SK hotline


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