North Korea re-establishes hotline with South Korea

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – North Korea reestablished dormant direct lines of communication with South Korea on Monday in a small and fragile step of reconciliation in a seemingly difficult attempt to win external concessions with a mix of conciliatory and conciliatory gestures. missile tests.

It is not known to what extent the move will improve relations between the Koreas, as Pyongyang is used to using hotlines as a bargaining chip in relations with Seoul. She often suspended them unilaterally and then reactivated when she needed better relations with her neighbor to the south.

North Korean liaison officers responded Monday morning to phone calls from their South Korean counterparts through a set of cross-border government and military channels for the first time in nearly two months.

“For a long time without speaking. We are very happy because the communication channels have been restored like this. We hope that South-North relations will develop to a new level,” said a Seoul official in a telephone conversation with its North Korean counterpart. a channel, according to a video posted by South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

On a separate military channel, the Koreans exchanged information on fishing activities along their disputed sea border to the west – where several bloody inter-Korean naval battles have taken place in previous years – to prevent similar skirmishes, Seoul Defense Ministry said. A ministry statement said Seoul hopes that restoring hotlines will help ease tensions on the peninsula.

Hotlines are telephone and fax channels that the Koreas use to organize meetings, organize border crossings and avoid accidental clashes. They have largely been stranded for more than a year as the North cut them off in protest at campaigns to distribute leaflets to South Korean civilians. Communications were briefly re-established for about two weeks this summer, but North Korea then refused to exchange messages again after Seoul held annual military exercises with Washington that Pyongyang sees as a repeat invasion.

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed his willingness to reactivate the channels of communication, saying he wanted to fulfill the wishes of the Korean people to promote peace. Her influential sister, Kim Yo Jong, said earlier that North Korea was open to resuming talks and cooperative measures if the conditions were right.

Some experts question the sincerity of such an opening because it came as North Korea renewed its missile tests after a six-month hiatus. Kim Yo Jong also said South Korea must abandon “double-play standards” and a “hostile point of view” if it is serious about improving relations, a position widely echoed by his brother.

Experts say North Korea is trying to use South Korea’s desire to improve relations to pressure it to convince the United States to relax punitive economic sanctions against the North. Others say North Korea wants South Korea not to criticize its ballistic missile testing, which is banned by UN Security Council resolutions, as part of its efforts to gain international recognition as a nuclear weapon state.

“The South Korean authorities must make positive efforts to put North-South relations back on track and settle the important tasks which must be given priority to open up bright prospects in the future, bearing in mind the meaning of the restoration of communication lines, ”said the official North Korean Central News Agency before the hotline’s restoration.

Lee Jong-joo, spokesperson for the Unification Ministry, said Seoul hoped the two Koreas would soon reopen official talks on improving relations based on the stable operation of hotlines.

It is not clear whether the North will get what it wants from its lobbying campaign. Kim Jong Un has said he will not resume talks with the United States unless it abandons its “policy of hostility,” an apparent reference to sanctions. The United States, for its part, has offered “anytime, anywhere” talks without preconditions, a position Kim described last week as a “shrewd” attempt to cover up US hostility. United against North Korea.

Nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington collapsed in early 2019 over disputes over exchanging sanctions relief for denuclearization measures. Despite its recent round of weapons testing, North Korea still maintains a 2018 self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile testing that directly threatens the Americas, an indication that it does not want to scuttle the outlook. future diplomacy with the United States

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Louis Foulds

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