UN chief welcomes reopened Korean hotline

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday welcomed the reopening of a hotline between North and South Korea and voiced hope for more diplomatic initiatives to end the peninsula's nuclear stand-off.

North and South Korea reopened the communication channel that had been shut since 2016, following an offer from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to send a team to next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea.

"It is always a positive development to have a dialogue between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea," said UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

South Korea has offered to hold talks with the North next Tuesday to discuss "matters of mutual interest" including the North's Olympic participation.

Mr Guterres' support for inter-Korean dialogue was in contrast to US ambassador Nikki Haley, who on Tuesday dismissed the overtures between Pyongyang and Seoul.

The US, backed by Japan, is pushing for sanctions and total isolation of Mr Kim's regime in response to a series of missile launches and nuclear tests.

Russia and the North's sole major ally, China, have called for talks to reduce tensions, but the US has been adamant that Pyongyang must first freeze its military programmes. - AFP