On January 5th, 2018, North Korea had agreed to initiate official talks with South Korea. This meeting, scheduled to be held Tuesday, will be the first high-level dialogue in over two years. At least five calls have been made via the cross-border hotline between the South and the North in recent days. Since Kim Jong-un expressed hope during this New Year’s Day address that North Korea might participate in the Pyeong Chang Winter Olympics, the North has made attempts to reopen communications with the South. President Moon Jae-in also echoed Kim’s sentiments, stating that the winter Olympics would “provide a very good opportunity for inter-Korean peace and reconciliation”.
The North’s agreement to hold talks came shortly after South Korea postponed military drills with the United States. In a phone call last Thursday between Trump and Moon, both agreed to postpone joint military drills during the Pyeongchang Olympics. Kim has long declared the drills as a threat to North Korea, and has been the center of tension in previous diplomatic talks. A top Russian official, Sergei Ryabkov, welcomed the restoration of the hotline, while pressing the US to “avoid making threatening statements that could undermine talks”. Ryabkov affirmed that Russia was ready to work with all players to help improve inter-Korean relations. Although it is necessary for states to prioritize security, Trump’s decision to brag in a tweet “his nuclear button was much bigger and more powerful than Kim’s”, only places state actors on the defensive and unwilling to cooperate.
Despite this, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Unification spokesman Baik Tae-hyun, agenda items for discussion will be “issues related to improving inter-Korean relationships”. Pyeongyang’s decision to reopen communications via the hotline is a big first step in finding peace on the border. Open communication is crucial in the de-escalation of tensions from potential unforeseen situations and misunderstandings. Furthermore, Kim’s official expression of his desire to work towards a peaceful resolution marks a new milestone in mutual efforts towards inter-Korean reconciliation since the two-year stalemate.
Dialogue is crucial for the potential outcome of an end to the ongoing war between the two Koreas. Because the Korean War ended with an armistice, it is necessary to reach a peaceful resolution. The resumption of talks is a positive start to improving bilateral relations. Although the pace of development is quick and an atmosphere of rapprochement is strong, is it crucial to sustaining that communication line to continue a new dialogue and cooperative efforts.