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Pyongyang reopens inter-Korean hotline after Seoul proposed talks

Pyongyang contacts Seoul while US President boasts on Twitter about having 'bigger, more powerful' nuclear button

SEOUL: North Korea reopened a long-closed border hotline with South Korea yesterday, hours after US President Donald Trump appeared to mock the North's leader by saying he has a "bigger and more powerful" nuclear button than Mr Kim Jong Un's.

The North's gesture came a day after South Korea proposed high-level discussions amid a stand-off over Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programmes.

That had followed Mr Kim's New Year address in which he said he was open to speaking with the South and would consider sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics just across the border in Pyeongchang next month.

Mr Kim ordered the reopening of the hotline at the truce village of Panmunjom at 0630 GMT (2.30pm Singapore time) yesterday, when South Korean officials received a call, the South's Unification Ministry said. Officials on both sides checked the line and had a conversation for 20 minutes, the contents of which were not disclosed.

That came hours after Mr Trump ridiculed Mr Kim on Twitter.

"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 & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!" Mr Trump tweeted.

The pair have exchanged bellicose comments in recent months, with Mr Trumpat times dismissing the prospect of a diplomatic solution to a crisis in which North Korea has threatened to destroy the US.

While appearing to open the door to discussing taking part in the Winter Olympics, Mr Kim also warned that he would push ahead with "mass producing" nuclear warheads despite UN sanctions.

Mr Kim, who has vowed to develop a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the US, had said during his address that he has a nuclear button on his desk.

A South Korean presidential spokesman said the North's reopening of the hotline has "significant meaning" because it could lead to constant communication.

US officials have voiced scepticism about the possibility of meaningful talks, particularly if they do not take steps towards banning North Korea's nuclear weapons. - REUTERS

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