North and South Korea restore severed hotlines after a year

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SEOUL, July 27 (UPI) — Hotlines that were severed in June of last year by North Korea were turned back on Tuesday, restoring communications between the two Koreas in a move both sides called a positive step in improving a fractured relationship.

The communications lines between government liaisons and both countries’ militaries were restored at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, South Korean presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun said, as the result of correspondence between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

“The two leaders have exchanged personal letters several times since April to communicate about the issue of restoring relations between the two Koreas, and in the process, they agreed to restore the communication lines that had been cut off,” Park said in a statement.

“The restoration of the inter-Korean hotline is expected to have a positive effect on the improvement and development of inter-Korean relations in the future,” he said.

North Korea acknowledged the resumption of the hotlines on Tuesday with a report in state-run media.

“Now, the whole Korean nation desires to see the [N]orth-[S]outh relations recovered from setback and stagnation as early as possible,” Korean Central News Agency reported.

The two leaders agreed “to make a big stride in recovering the mutual trust promoting reconciliation by restoring the cutoff inter-Korean communication liaison lines through the recent several exchanges of personal letters,” the report said.

South Korea’s unification ministry announced that it successfully completed a pair of calls on the hotline and said that both sides agreed to resume daily calls at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

“We hope that communications between the two sides never be severed again, and look forward to discussing various pending issues and fulfilling previous inter-Korean agreements,” the ministry said in a statement.

The defense ministry of South Korea also confirmed it completed a call to its North Korean counterpart on Tuesday morning after some initial technical difficulties.

The two sides agreed to resume calls twice a day, the ministry said in a statement. It added that the communications lines will “substantially contribute to the settling of military tensions” on the peninsula.

The move comes more than a year after North Korea cut off all communications and destroyed a shared liaison office located in its border city of Kaesong, in response to North Korean defectors sending information leaflets and cash across the border via balloons.

Relations had been at a low ebb between the two Koreas since, with the North publicly rejecting proposals for cooperation by the South. Pyongyang and Washington have also been at a stalemate in nuclear negotiations since a February 2019 summit between then-President Donald Trump and Kim ended without an agreement.

Moon and Kim began their correspondence in April, on the 3rd anniversary of their summit held in the truce village of Panmunjom inside the DMZ, Park said at a press briefing.

In their correspondence, Moon and Kim agreed that “prompt restoration of relations and trust is necessary” to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula and discussed issues such as the coronavirus pandemic, the spokesman said.

Park added that a future face-to-face or video summit was not discussed.

UPI

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