Now Kim can talk to Moon
The two Koreas opened a hotline between their leaders yesterday, a week before a summit between North Korea's Kim Jong Un and the South's President Moon Jae-in in the Demilitarized Zone.
The line links the presidential Blue House in Seoul with the Pyongyang office of the nuclear-armed North's State Affairs Commission, which Kim chairs - one of his most important titles.
"The historic connection of the hotline between the leaders of the two Koreas has just been established," said senior Blue House official Youn Kun-young, adding that a test conversation between officials lasted 4 minutes and 19 seconds.
"The connection was smooth and the quality of connection was also very good," he said. "It felt like talking to a neighbour."
Geographically the two are next door to each other, but the peninsula has been divided for 70 years, with no post or telephone communications between them for ordinary civilians since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
The hotline, which enables direct communications between Kim and Moon, is the latest step in a whirlwind of diplomacy on and around the Korean peninsula, triggered by the Winter Olympics in the South.
The two leaders are due to meet next Friday on the southern side of the DMZ, in what will be only the third inter-Korean summit since war ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving them technically still in a state of conflict.
Pyongyang - which last year carried out its most powerful nuclear test to date and launched intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States - has long insisted that it needs them to defend against a US invasion.
The US, on the other hand, is adamant that it will accept nothing less than the North's complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation.
US President Donald Trump warned this week that his summit with Kim could still be called off, saying: "If I think that it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we're not going to go.
"If the meeting, when I'm there, is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting."
Moon said Thursday that the North had shown "a willingness for a complete denuclearisation", and had not demanded the withdrawal of US troops.
"They are only talking about a security guarantee of its own," he said.
PUTIN 'READY' FOR TRUMP: LAVROV
Russian president Vladimir Putin is "ready for a meeting" with his US counterpart Donald Trump, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday.
Moscow's chief diplomat added that such a summit was not currently being discussed but the Kremlin hopes that a meeting at the White House would materialise.
Trump proposed a White House summit when he called Putin last month, prior to the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats from the US.