North and South Korea reopen cross-border communication channels

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FILED - North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attends the performance titled
FILED - North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attends the performance titled "The Glorious Country", on the sidelines of the Inter-Korean Summit, at the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, 19 September 2018. Photo: -/Zuma Press/dpa

North and South Korea have reopened their official communication channels after more than a year of suspension, both countries said on Tuesday.

The South Korean presidential office announced the cross-border hotline between the two Koreas was reopened, while North Korea’s state news agency KCNA also confirmed liaison lines were restored on Tuesday morning.

The move came on the 68th anniversary of the signing of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War.

South Korean President Moon Jae In has been exchanging personal letters with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un since April, his office said, and the two agreed to restore communications.

The step will contribute to an improvement in relations, Moon’s office said.

There was no mention of a possible face-to-face meeting between Moon and Kim in the future, but it is the widespread view of analysts in the region that Moon is aiming to hold such an inter-Korean summit before his five-year term ends in 2022.

North Korea unilaterally cut off all communications channels between the governments and militaries of both countries last June.

Pyongyang was responding to propaganda leafleting campaigns targeting the North Korean leadership sent by South Korean activists and North Korean refugees at the border.

Pyongyang accused Seoul of failing to take action against the leafleting.

The hotline between Moon and Kim’s offices was also hit by the move.

North Korea later blew up a joint liaison office in the border town of Kaesong that was opened as a result of a 2018 summit between the leaders of North and South Korea.

KCNA reported on Tuesday that all Koreans want to recover from the setbacks as soon as possible, and that the leaders of North and South Korea “agreed to make a big stride in recovering the mutual trust and promoting reconciliation by restoring the cut-off inter-Korean communication liaison lines.”

Observers assume that with the rapprochement with its neighbour, North Korea could also being paving the way for possible international aid.

Kim recently admitted to food shortages in the country, which has been hit hard in recent years not only by international sanctions on its economy, but also coronavirus-induced disruptions to trade with neighbouring China and extreme weather.

North Korea is internationally isolated because of its nuclear weapons programme and has been sanctioned by the United Nations.

After a failed summit between Kim Jong Un and former US president Donald Trump in Vietnam in February 2019, inter-Korean relations also stalled.
Trump and Kim were unable to agree on a roadmap for North Korean nuclear disarmament and US countermeasures.

North Korea has so far shot down offers by the Biden administration to hold negotiations without any preconditions about the secretive state’s nuclear weapons programme.

North Korea has made it clear several times since 2019 that it is not interested in new talks unless Washington submits new proposals.

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