Seoul, October 4 (WNN) — The two governments on Monday reopened communications and military hotlines and successfully tested the system, amid signs of a deterioration in relations on the Korean peninsula.
The move was taken last week by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to restore lines that had been dormant for more than a year after Pyongyang cut all communications with Seoul.
A statement carried by North Korea’s state-run news agency said the communication lines were turned on at 9 a.m. Monday as part of “an effort to realize the hope and desire of the entire nation.” [N]Meaning-[S]To restore relations as soon as possible and establish lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.”
Seoul should “make a positive effort” to get relations back on track and “settle on important tasks that must be prioritized to open up bright prospects”.[s] In the future,” the statement in the Korean Central News Agency said.
The South Korean military confirmed that its hotlines on the country’s east and west coasts resumed operations on Monday and were operating normally.
The military communications channel has “contributed to the prevention of accidental skirmishes,” the defense ministry said in a statement.
“It is hoped that this measure to restore military communication lines between South and North Korean officials will significantly reduce military tensions on the Korean peninsula in the future.”
South Korea’s unification ministry also confirmed that its direct hotline with the North resumed on Monday. According to South Korean news agency Yonhap, it said the government looked forward to “initiating and moving forward concrete discussions to improve inter-Korean relations and establish peace on the Korean peninsula”.
The ministry said the two sides will make regularly scheduled calls twice a day at 9 am and 5 pm.
North Korea cut off all communications and destroyed a joint liaison office in its border town of Kaesong in June 2020 after complaints about the practice of defectors sending information leaflets across the border via balloons.
Pyongyang restored the hotline sometime in July, but stopped responding to them in August in protest of joint US-South Korea military exercises, which the North often claims are rehearsals for an invasion.
The gesture is the latest in a series of efforts by Pyongyang to improve relations with Seoul. Addressing his country’s rubber-stamp parliament last week, Kim said the North had “neither purpose nor reason to provoke. [S]Korea outside and has no idea of harming it.”
North Korea also appeared receptive to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s latest proposal to declare an official end to the Korean War. The 1950–53 conflict ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically still at war.
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September, Moon said the declaration of the end of the war would bring “irreversible progress in denuclearization and the beginning of an era of complete peace”.
Kim Jong Un’s influential sister, Kim Yo Jong, responded to the proposal, calling it “an interesting and laudable idea”.
Talks between the United States and North Korea have been stalled, however, with no substantial movement since the summit hosted by then-President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in February 2019, which ended without a deal.
Officials in President Joe Biden’s administration have repeatedly reiterated that they are willing to meet with their North Korean counterparts without preconditions.
Kim Jong Un last week called these diplomatic efforts a “small ploy” and blamed Washington’s “hostile policy” for keeping tensions high on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea has recently conducted a flurry of weapons tests, launching new missiles on four occasions in the past month, which it claims are necessary for self-defense and deterrence.