In a photo taken on Aug 2, 2017, the Republic of Korea's soldiers stand guard before the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's Panmon Hall (rear center) and the military demarcation line separating the ROK and DPRK, at Panmunjom, in the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone. (ED JONES / AFP)
SEOUL -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) reopened a communications channel with the Republic of Korea (ROK) on Wednesday in the truce village of Panmunjom, the DPRK media reported.
The DPRK's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland announced that the DPRK's leader Kim Jong-un ordered the reopening of the communications channel in Panmunjom to make working-level discussions on the dispatch of the DPRK's delegation to the ROK-hosted 2018 Winter Olympics, which is set to be held in ROK's Pyeongchang in the eastern Gangwon province.
China welcomed and expressed support for efforts by the DPRK and the ROK to improve relations
The ROK's unification ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs said in a statement that the DPRK side gave a contact to the ROK side via a communication channel in Panmunjom at 3:30 pm local time (0630 GMT), as announced by Pyongyang.
During the contact, which lasted for about 20 minutes, the two sides made the technical check of the cross-border hotline, which had not been operated for almost two years.
The liaison office channel of Panmunjom has been cut off since the previous ROK government unilaterally closed the inter-Korean industrial zone in the DPRK's border town of Kaesong following Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test in January 2016.
Before the cut-off, ROK and the DPRK operated two cross-border hotlines - the Panmunjom liaison office channel and the military hotline. Those hotlines were not physically severed, but the DPRK hadn't responded to Seoul's call.
During the first inter-Korean contact, the two sides discussed no detail on Seoul's proposal Tuesday to Pyongyang holding a senior-level, inter-governmental dialogue on Jan 9 at the Peace House, a ROK building in Panmunjom.
The dialogue proposal came a day after top DPRK leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year's address that his country was willing to participate in the ROK-hosted 2018 Winter Olympics, which is slated in February.
ROK President Moon Jae-in hailed Kim's New Year speech, ordering government officials to rapidly restore inter-Korean talks and draw up follow-up measures to allow the DPRK's delegation to join the 2018 Winter Olympics.
China on Wednesday welcomed and expressed support for efforts by the DPRK and the ROK to improve relations as the DPRK reopened cross-border communications with the ROK.
Geng Shuang, spokesperson for Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, speaks at a press briefing on March 7, 2017. (PHOTO / FMPRC.GOV.CN)
"China welcomes and supports the two sides to improve ties, ease tensions and make concrete efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang made the remarks at a daily press briefing held in Beijing.
Geng adds that all parties should take the opportunity and work for the same goal. He also said China is willing to play a positive and constructive role to push the Korean Peninsula issue back on track through talks and peaceful negotiation.
Yoon Young-chan, senior press secretary for President Moon, told reporters that the reopening had a great meaning, saying it would make possible inter-Korean talks in a regular manner.
The unification ministry said in a statement that it hailed Pyongyang's positive response to Seoul's offer to resume the communications channel in Panmunjom.
It said ROK a will make working-level discussions on issues on the senior-level, inter-governmental dialogue via the reopened communication channel.