TPM World News

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s public broadcaster mistakenly sent an alert warning citizens of a North Korean missile launch and urging them to seek immediate shelter, then retracted it minutes later, days after a similar error in Hawaii.

NHK television issued the message Tuesday on its internet and mobile news sites as well as on Twitter, saying North Korea appeared to have fired a missile at Japan. It said the government was telling people to take shelter.

The false alarm came two days after Hawaii’s emergency management department sent a mistaken warning of a North Korean missile attack to mobile phones across the state, triggering panic.

NHK deleted its tweet after several minutes, issued a correction and apologized several times on air. It said a mistake in using the alert system caused the error.

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SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — The Latest on the pope’s visit to Chile (all times local):

9:10 a.m.

Three churches have been firebombed in Chile on the first full day of Pope Francis’ visit to the Andean nation.

Authorities say two churches were burned in the early hours of Tuesday in the southern Araucania region. The pope is set to visit with indigenous Mapuches Wednesday in Temuco, the capital of Araucania. The third church attacked was in Puento Alto, just south of Santiago.

Including the latest firebombings, nine churches have been attacked in Chile since Friday.

In recent years, the Mapuche have burned churches to agitate for the return of ancestral lands and recognition of their language. It’s not clear who has been behind the spate of recent burnings.

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9 a.m.

Pope Francis is begging the forgiveness of Chileans for the “irreparable damage” done to children who have been sexually abused by priests.

Francis opened his visit to Chile on Tuesday by referring directly to the abuse scandal in a speech to President Michelle Bachelet, lawmakers, justices and other Chilean authorities. The scandal has eroded the credibility of the Catholic Church here and cast a shadow over his visit, the first by a pope in three decades.

Francis said he felt “bound to express my pain and shame at the irreprarable damage caused to children by some ministers of the church.” He said he joined his fellow bishops in asking forgiveness, supporting victims and ensuring abuse doesn’t happen again.

Chile’s Catholic Church had already begun losing relevance when in 2010 it was found to have covered up for a prominent and powerful priest who sexually abused minors in his posh Santiago parish. The Vatican eventually sanctioned the priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, in 2011, but the church has yet to recover from the scandal.

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6 a.m.

Pope Francis will be under pressure Tuesday to confront a priest sex abuse scandal during his first full day in Chile, an Andean nation where the majority identifies as Roman Catholic but strong currents of skepticism and even contempt for the church are increasingly present.

Many Chileans are still furious over his 2015 decision to appoint a bishop close to the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a priest found guilty by the Vatican in 2011 of abusing dozens of minors over decades.

Bishop Juan Barros of the southern city of Osorno has always denied he knew what Karadima was doing when he was the priest’s protege, but many Chileans have a hard time believing that.

“Sex abuse is Pope Francis’ weakest spot in terms of his credibility,” said Massimo Faggioli, a Vatican expert and theology professor at Villanova University in Philadelphia. “It is surprising that the pope and his entourage don’t understand that they need to be more forthcoming on this issue.”

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WASHINGTON (AP) — An attempt to oust President Donald Trump’s hotel business from managing a luxury hotel in Panama has turned bitter, with accusations of financial misconduct.

Trump Hotels is contesting its firing, and its staff ran off a team of Marriott executives invited last month to visit the property during a search for a new hotel operator, according to two people familiar with the matter.

After the owners’ association accused Trump Hotels of mismanagement and financial misconduct in a $15 million arbitration claim, the company owned by the president fired back with a $200 million counterclaim and refused to turn over the property’s financial records. When a team from Marriott International Inc. came to the property at the invitation of the hotel’s majority owner, Trump staff asked them to leave, according to the two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss publicly what happened behind the scenes.

The head of Trump Hotels, Eric Danziger, also called Marriott chief executive Arne Sorenson to complain about the visit, the two people said.

Marriott generally steers clear of properties facing ownership and management disputes. But the call from a senior Trump executive to the CEO of Marriott, which manages more than 6,000 hotels, raised the awkward matter of how American companies interact with a business owned by the president.

Marriott, like most major international companies, has significant business and public policy interests before the Trump administration. Federal employees who travel and hold government conferences pay to use its properties, and Marriott has been lobbying the administration and Congress over U.S. tourism, trade and legal restrictions against property ownership in Cuba, disclosures to consumers about resort fees, and other issues.

Trump Organization general counsel Alan Garten said the call was not intended to pressure Marriott.

“We have a great relationship with Marriott,” Garten said. “They were appreciative that we let them know that we have a valid contract.”

A spokeswoman for Marriott declined to comment.

The matter highlights potential ethics concerns raised by Trump’s decision not to divest himself from his businesses, said Larry Noble, head of the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington-based public interest group that studies issues of democracy.

“I don’t know if they’ve got a valid contract or not,” Noble said. “But if you’re a big company, you’d really have to think twice before getting into a fight with one of the president’s companies.”

Since Trump took office, Trump hotels in New York and Toronto have quietly reached deals to separate themselves from Trump’s brand.

But the Panama dispute is shaping up as a brawl.

In a letter to fellow owners, the investor leading the hotel owners’ board of directors accused Trump Hotels of “gross mismanagement, breaches of contract, conversion and breaches of fiduciary duties.” Conversion is a legal term for the misuse of someone else’s property for one’s own gain.

“Our investment has no future so long as the hotel is managed by an incompetent operator whose brand has been tarnished beyond repair,” Orestes Fintiklis, the managing partner of Miami-based Ithaca Capital Partners, wrote in the letter. Trump Hotels, he wrote, “is refusing to maintain its last shreds of dignity and peacefully vacate our property.”

Fintiklis did not respond to emails from the AP seeking comment.

Trump Hotels accused Ithaca of deceiving its fellow hotel owners and illegally terminating the Trump contract.

“Unfortunately, it is YOU, the unit owners, who will ultimately be the ones to bear responsibility for the bad acts of Mr. Fintiklis and his cohorts,” said Trump Hotels executive vice president Jeff Wagoner in an earlier letter to the owners last week.

Rising 70 stories in the shape of a wind-filled sail, the Trump hotel promised investors a chance to become the part owner of one of Central America’s finest hotels. It has struggled to sell units after its completion in 2011. Occupancy rates are low enough that some owners receive no income from their properties and must reach into their own pockets to pay maintenance costs.

The effort to remove Trump hotels from managing the hybrid condo-hotel units on the property began last year, after Ithaca Capital Group purchased 202 unsold hotel units from the building’s struggling developer.

After buying the units in August, Ithaca and the other owners voted in November to fire Trump’s directors, clearing the way for terminating Trump’s contract and the $15 million arbitration claim against Trump Hotels.

Not all the hotel unit owners were represented at the meeting, but those contacted by The Associated Press support the effort to fire Trump.

“They wanted to remove him quietly,” said Al Monstavicius, a retired Nevada doctor who owns a penthouse hotel unit in the building, of Ithaca’s efforts. “That didn’t work.”

Monstavicius said Trump’s statements regarding Mexicans and his determination to strip hundreds of thousands of Central Americans of their protection from deportation have made Trump’s brand toxic in Panama.

Occupancy in recent days — considered peak high season — has ranged from 26 to 28 percent, according to Trump Hotels figures.

Overbuilding and general weakness in the Panama hotel market have contributed to problems. Trump’s team said it was proud of the hotel’s financial performance. It told owners Trump’s hotel has outperformed its peers for 81 of the last 84 months, but Fintiklis dismissed the claim as “simply delusional.”

The hostilities extended to Ithaca’s invitation of Marriott executives to the property.

“We were obviously concerned about their presence there,” Garten said, adding that he believed Marriott did not know of the circumstances.

The heart of Trump Hotels’ claim against the hotel owners is a February 2017 agreement. When it bought 202 units, Ithaca agreed not to act “in any manner adverse to the interests of Trump Hotels.” In his letter, Fintiklis acknowledged the language in the agreement but said mismanagement and misconduct by Trump Hotels rendered it invalid.

If the owners in Panama succeed, it won’t be the first time that Trump has been ousted there. In 2015, amid the early months of Trump’s presidential campaign, the owners of apartments in the same building voted to fire Trump’s management company over budget issues and allegations of misspent funds.

Since then, the property’s overall finances have improved. Its annual deficits, which exceeded $1 million, have since turned into a surplus, according to financial documents provided to the AP by an owner.

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa summoned the United States’ senior diplomat in Pretoria on Monday over President Donald Trump’s recent disparaging comments about African nations and Haiti.

Trump has been accused of describing African nations as “shithole countries” during a meeting with U.S. senators last week. He has denied making the statements, as well as the ensuing accusations that he is racist.

South African foreign ministry officials met the U.S. chargé d’affaires and other U.S. Embassy officials in the capital to express South African concerns about Trump’s reported comments, the ministry said in a statement.

“It was noted that Africa and the African diaspora has contributed significantly to the United States and to its development into the country that it is today, and that the African and international reaction to the alleged statements clearly serve as a united affirmation of the dignity of the people of Africa and the African diaspora,” the ministry said.

The meeting provided an opportunity for the U.S. Embassy to reiterate its “commitment to working with South Africa to achieve shared goals and strengthen our bilateral ties,” embassy spokeswoman Cindy Harvey said in a statement. “We remain committed to working together to realize the promise of a more peaceful, more productive, more prosperous South Africa.”

Trump’s comments were met with widespread consternation in Africa, with an African Union spokeswoman saying the union was “frankly alarmed.”

“Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice,” AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said. The governments of Namibia and Botswana have also condemned the comments.

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QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Ecuador has granted citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after more than five years of living in asylum at the nation’s embassy in London, officials announced Thursday.

Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa said officials accepted Assange’s request for naturalization in December, and they continue to look for a long-term resolution to a situation that has vexed officials since 2012.

“What naturalization does is provide the asylum seeker another layer of protection,” Espinosa said.

Ecuador gave Assange asylum after he sought refuge in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden for investigation of sex-related claims. Sweden dropped the case, but Assange has remained in the embassy because he is still subject to arrest in Britain for jumping bail. He also fears a possible U.S. extradition request based on his leaking of classified State Department documents.

The Australian-born Assange posted a photograph of himself wearing a yellow Ecuadorean national soccer team jersey on Instagram Wednesday and his name now appears in the Andean country’s national registry.

The new citizenship status, however, appears to change little for Assange in the immediate future. He would still need to alert British authorities of any movement outside the embassy.

Espinosa said Ecuador is trying to make Assange a member of its diplomatic team, which would grant him additional rights under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, including special legal immunity and safe passage.

Britain’s Foreign Office said earlier Thursday it has rejected Ecuador’s request to grant him diplomatic status in the U.K.

“Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice,” the office said.

Though protected by Ecuador, the relationship between Assange and nation’s leaders has at times been dicey. Ecuador has repeatedly urged Assange not to interfere in the affairs of other countries following his frequent online comments on international issues.

The biggest crisis came in October 2016, when the embassy cut his internet service after WikiLeaks published a trove of emails from then-U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

He was also a point of contention in Ecuador’s 2017 presidential election. Conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso pledged to evict the Australian within 30 days of taking office, while current President Lenin Moreno said he would allow him to stay. Assange later taunted after Lasso’s loss that he would “cordially invite Lasso to leave Ecuador within 30 days.”

Moreno issued a warning reminding Assange not to meddle in politics. He has also called Assange a hacker.

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The rival Koreas took steps toward reducing their bitter animosity during rare talks Tuesday, as North Korea agreed to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea and reopen a military hotline.

The meeting, the first of its kind in about two years, was arranged after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made an abrupt push for improved ties with South Korea following a year of elevated tensions with the outside world over his expanding nuclear and missile programs. Critics say Kim may be trying to divide Seoul and Washington in a bid to weaken international pressure and sanctions on the North.

During the talks, the North Korean delegation said it would send an Olympic delegation, including officials, athletes, cheerleaders, journalists and others, South Korean Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung told reporters, according to media footage from the border village of Panmunjom, the venue of the talks.

North Korea is weak in winter sports and a pair of figure skaters, Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik, earlier became the only North Korean athletes to qualify for next month’s Pyeongchang Games before the North missed a confirmation deadline. The International Olympic Committee said Monday it has “kept the door open” for North Korea to take part in the games.

Chun, one of five South Korean negotiators, said the South proposed that North Korea send a big delegation and march with South Korean athletes during the Feb. 9-25 games’ opening and closing ceremonies.

He said South Korea also suggested resuming temporary reunions of families separated by war and offered military talks designed to reduce animosities in front-line areas. South Korea also stressed the need to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Chun said.

North Korea responded by saying the two Koreas must try to promote peace and reconciliation through dialogue, he said.

The two sides’ chief delegates were meeting Tuesday evening to discuss the wording of a joint statement, the media reports said, but it wasn’t immediately known when the talks would end. Past inter-Korean talks have often continued until late at night.

The countries have a long history of failing to follow through with rapprochement accords. In 2015, negotiators met for nearly 40 hours before announcing a deal to pull back from a military standoff caused by land mine blasts that maimed two South Korean soldiers. But animosities flared again several months later after the North’s fourth nuclear test.

The meeting’s venue, Panmunjom, is the only place on the tense border where North and South Korean soldiers are just meters (feet) away from each other. A North Korean soldier in November defected to the South across Panmunjom amid a hail of bullets fired by his comrades. He was hit five times but survived.

Tuesday’s meeting began in an amicable atmosphere, with chief North Korean delegate Ri Son Gwon saying he hoped the talks would give “a New Year’s first gift — precious results to the Korean nation.” Ri’s South Korean counterpart, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, said he also hoped they would come up with a “good gift” for people in both Koreas.

Later Tuesday, Chun said North Korea told the South Korean delegation that it restored a military hotline with the South, in the second reopening of a suspended inter-Korean communication channel in about a week.

All major inter-Korean communication channels had been shut down amid animosities over the North’s nuclear program in recent years. But North Korea reopened one of the channels last week as signs emerged of improving ties.

An agreement on the North’s Olympic participation had been widely expected before the talks began, but the Koreas remain sharply at odds over how to improve their overall ties.

North Korea is expected to demand rewards in return for South Korea’s proposal of family reunions and military talks, such as a halt to South Korean propaganda broadcasts and a scaling back or halting of military drills with the U.S., observers say.

Suspension of the military drills would be unacceptable for Seoul because it would seriously undermine its alliance with its chief ally, the United States, which wants to put more pressure on North Korea. The North views the drills as a rehearsal for an invasion.

During an earlier era of inter-Korean detente, athletes from the two Koreas paraded together at international sports events such as the Olympics and fielded a unified Korean team. The government of current South Korean President Moon Jae-in wants the two Koreas to agree to similar reconciliatory steps at the Pyeongchang Games.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday expressed hope for some progress from the talks and said he was open to talking with Kim himself. But U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley later said the U.S. administration isn’t changing its conditions regarding talks with North Korea, saying Kim first needs to stop weapons testing for a “significant amount of time.”

In his New Year’s Day address, Kim said he was willing to send a delegation to the Pyeongchang Games. He urged Seoul to halt the military drills with the U.S. and said he has a “nuclear button” to launch missiles at any target in the United States. Moon welcomed Kim’s outreach and proposed the talks at Panmunjom.

Trump and Kim traded bellicose rhetoric and crude insults last year, as North Korea conducted it sixth and most powerful nuclear detonation and three tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

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GENEVA (AP) — Olympics officials say they have “kept the door open” for North Korea to take part in the upcoming Winter Games in South Korea.

The International Olympic Committee has long sought a diplomatic success that could allow the reclusive Communist country to participate in the Pyeongchang Games next month.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Monday the registration deadline has been extended and that the Lausanne, Switzerland-based committee supports North Korean athletes in the qualification process, while respecting U.N. sanctions against North Korea.

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wished success for the Games and suggested the North may send a delegation. Officials for the two countries are set to meet on Wednesday.

Japanese media reported over the weekend that North Korea’s IOC representative, Chang Ung, was headed to Switzerland.

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The rival Koreas will sit down for their first formal talks in more than two years next week to find ways to cooperate on the Winter Olympics in the South and to improve their abysmal ties, Seoul officials said Friday. While a positive sign after last year’s threats of nuclear war, the Koreas have a long history of failing to move past their deep animosity.

The announcement came hours after the United States said it will delay annual military exercises with South Korea until after the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month. The exercises infuriate North Korea, which claims they are an invasion rehearsal, although South Korea and the United States have repeatedly said they are defensive in nature.

On Friday morning, North Korea sent a message saying it would accept South Korea’s offer to meet at the border village of Panmunjom next Tuesday to discuss Olympic cooperation and how to improve overall ties, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles North Korean matters. Panmunjom is where a North Korean soldier dashed across the border into the South in November. He is recovering after being shot five times by his former comrades.

Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said he expects the two Koreas will use a recently restored cross-border communication channel to try to determine who will head their respective delegations next week.

Any dialogue between the Koreas is seen as a positive step. But critics say the North’s abrupt push to improve ties may be a tactic to divide Seoul and Washington and weaken international pressure and sanctions on Pyongyang.

In his New Year’s address Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he was willing to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics but he also said he has a “nuclear button” on his desk to fire atomic weapons at the United States. President Donald Trump quickly responded that he had a bigger and more powerful “nuclear button” of his own.

Past breakthroughs to ease Korean tensions have often ended with renewed animosities. It’s likely the North will refrain from provocations during the Games. But tensions could return afterward because the North has no intention of abandoning its weapons programs and the United States will not ease its pressure on the country, analysts say.

China’s foreign ministry applauded news of possible talks between the rival Koreas.

“We welcome the recent positive turn of events in the peninsular situation,” spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular briefing.

Geng expressed hope “all relevant parties” would take advantage of the Games to “bring the issue back to the correct track of peaceful settlement through dialogue and consultation.”

The Trump government on Thursday said its springtime military drills with South Korea will be held from March 8-18 following the Feb. 9-25 Olympic Games. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis insisted the delay was a practical necessity to accommodate the Olympics, not a political gesture.

The White House said Trump approved the postponement in consultation with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who said he suggested the drills’ delay to the United States.

Moon, a liberal, has been pushing to improve strained ties and restore stalled cooperation projects with North Korea since his inauguration in May, though he joined U.S.-led international efforts to apply more pressure and sanctions on the North.

Moon’s government wants North Korea to take part in the Winter Olympics. But North Korea is not strong in winter sports and none of its athletes have been qualified to compete in the Games. It needs to acquire additional quotas by the International Olympic Committee to come to South Korea. Baik said North Korea is expected to hold talks with IOC officials next week.

The Trump administration has said all options are on the table to end the North Korean nuclear standoff, including military measures, but Moon has repeatedly said there cannot be another war on the Korean Peninsula. Critics say these differences may have led Kim to think he can drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington as a way to weaken international pressure on the country.

The United States stations about 30,000 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. North Korea has cited the U.S. military presence and its regular drills with South Korea as proof of American hostility that compels it to pursue nuclear weapons.

Last year, North Korea carried out its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and test-launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles as part of its push to possess functioning nuclear missiles capable of striking the U.S. mainland. The repeated weapons tests earned the North toughened U.N. sanctions, and Kim and Trump exchanged threats of nuclear war and crude personal insults.

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iran charged Wednesday that the U.S. “has crossed every limit” in international relations by expressing support for Iran’s anti-government protesters and said President Donald Trump’s “absurd tweets” have encouraged disruption.

In a letter to U.N. officials, Iranian Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo complained that Washington was intervening “in a grotesque way in Iran’s internal affairs.” He said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were personally stirring up trouble.

“The President and Vice-President of the United States, in their numerous absurd tweets, incited Iranians to engage in disruptive acts,” the ambassador wrote to the U.N. Security Council president and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The U.S. didn’t immediately respond to the letter, which maintains that Washington “has crossed every limit in flouting rules and principles of international law governing the civilized conduct of international relations.”

At least 21 people have been killed and hundreds arrested in Iran during a week of anti-government protests and unrest over economic woes and official corruption. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people took part in counter-demonstrations Wednesday backing the clerically overseen government, which has said “enemies of Iran” are fomenting the protests.

Trump has unleashed a series of tweets in recent days backing the protesters, saying Iran is “failing at every level” and declaring that it is “time for change” in the Islamic Republic.

“Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government,” he tweeted Wednesday. “You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!”

Trump’s U.N. envoy, Ambassador Nikki Haley, called Tuesday for an emergency Security Council meeting on Iran, saying the U.N. needed to speak out in support of the protesters.

As yet, no meeting has been scheduled.

Guterres is following the developments in Iran with concern, deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said earlier Wednesday. He said the secretary-general urged respect for free-expression rights and stressed that any demonstrations should be peaceful.

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reopened a key cross-border communication channel with South Korea for the first time in nearly two years Wednesday as the rivals explored the possibility of sitting down and talking after months of acrimony and fears of war.

The sudden signs of easing hostilities, however, came as President Donald Trump threatened Kim with nuclear war in response to his threat earlier this week.

In his New Year’s address Monday, Kim said he was willing to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea. But he also said he has a “nuclear button” on his desk and that all U.S. territory is within striking distance of his nuclear weapons, comments Trump latched onto Tuesday when he boasted of a bigger and more powerful “nuclear button” than Kim’s.

The two leaders exchanged crude insults last year, as the North received new U.N. sanctions over its sixth and most powerful nuclear test explosion and a series of intercontinental ballistic missile launches.

The recent softening of contact between the rival Koreas may show a shared interest in improved ties, but there’s no guarantee tensions will ease. There have been repeated attempts in recent years by the rivals to talk, but even when they do meet, the efforts often end in recriminations and stalemate.

Outside critics say Kim may be trying to use better ties with South Korea as a way to weaken the alliance between Washington and Seoul as the North grapples with toughened international sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs.

Kim’s latest announcement, which was read by a senior Pyongyang official on state TV, followed a South Korean offer on Tuesday of high-level talks with North Korea to find ways to cooperate on next month’s Winter Olympics in the South and discuss other inter-Korean issues.

Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the state-run Committee for the Peaceful Reunification, cited Kim as welcoming South Korea’s overture and ordering officials to reopen a communication channel at the border village of Panmunjom. Ri also quoted Kim as ordering officials to promptly take substantial measures with South Korea out of a “sincere stand and honest attitude,” according to the North’s state TV and news agency.

South Korea quickly welcomed Kim’s decision and later confirmed that the two Koreas began preliminary contacts on the channel. During their 20-minute communication, liaison officials of the two Koreas exchanged their names and examined their communication lines to make sure they were working, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.

Since taking office last May, South Korea’s liberal President Moon Jae-in has pushed hard to improve ties and resume stalled cooperation projects with North Korea. Pyongyang had not responded to his outreach until Kim’s New Year’s address.

Relations between the Koreas soured under Moon’s conservative predecessors, who responded to the North’s expanding nuclear program with hard-line measures. All major rapprochement projects were put on hold one by one, and the Panmunjom communication channel had been suspended since February 2016.

Moon has joined U.S.-led international efforts to apply more pressure and sanctions on North Korea, but he still favors dialogue as a way to resolve the nuclear standoff. The Trump administration says all options are on the table, including military measures against the North. Moon has repeatedly said he opposes any war on the Korean Peninsula.

Some observers believe these differences in views may have led Kim to think he could drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington as a way to weaken their alliance and international sanctions.

Talks could provide a temporary thaw in strained inter-Korean ties, but conservative critics worry that they may only earn the North time to perfect its nuclear weapons.

After the Olympics, inter-Korean ties could become frosty again because the North has made it clear it has no intention of accepting international calls for nuclear disarmament and instead wants to bolster its weapons arsenal in the face of what it considers increasing U.S. threats, analysts say.

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