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North and South Korea reopen their lines of communication

SEOUL – North and South Korea reopened military and diplomatic hotlines on Tuesday after a nearly 14-month hiatus as the North said it wanted to improve ties. “as soon as possible“in the midst of a deepening economic crisis.

The decision to reestablish links was negotiated in a series of letters exchanged since April between the president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, and the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, the governments of both countries reported Tuesday.

Both decided to reopen communications on a symbolic day the anniversary of the truce that ended the Korean War in 1953.

The North cut off all communications with South Korea in June last year, saying it had no need to continue communicating with a country it considered “enemy”.

Since then, he has refused to pick up the phone when South Korean officials make routine daily calls to the military line and others. inter-Korean hotlines.

Days after communications were cut off, relations reached their lowest point in recent years when the North bombed a joint inter-Korean liaison office in the North Korean city of Kaesong, near the border, where officials from both sides had kept Offices.

At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, officials from both countries assigned to Panmunjom, one of the so-called truce villages that runs along the inter-Korean border, spoke by phone, according to the South Korean government.

Separately, the South Korean military said it had reopened direct phone and fax lines with the North Korean People’s Army.

“We hope that the reestablishment of communication lines between the South and the North will contribute positively to the improvement and development of bilateral relations,” Moon’s spokesman said, Park Soo-hyun.

Reporting the same announcement, North Korea’s Central News Agency said that “the whole korean nation he wants North-South relations to recover from the setback and stagnation as soon as possible. “

Ties between the countries skyrocketed in 2018 when Moon and Kim met three times, ushering in a rare detente on the Korean peninsula that replaced years of tensions fueled by North Korea’s long-range missile and nuclear tests. .

But relations soon deteriorated after Kim’s second summit with the former president. Donald Trump will end in Hanoi, Vietnam in early 2019 without an agreement on how to roll back the North’s nuclear weapons program or ease the sanctions imposed by the United Nations on the North.

After Kim returned home empty-handed from Hanoi, North Korea blamed the South.

The Kim government ordered to cut communications and destroy the liaison office in Kaesong.

But the Moon government has continued to work hard to get North Korea back to the negotiating table. One of the priorities of those efforts has been to reopen the lines of communication.

South Korea has long insisted on the importance of cross-border hotlines to avoid inadvertent clashes between the two armies.

Both Koreas have also used the hotlines to propose dialogue and discuss humanitarian supplies and other conciliatory gestures, such as organizing meetings of separated families for a long time by the Korean War.

The Moon government also helped enact a new law prohibiting the sending of propaganda leaflets to the North.

North Korea has long shown its rejection of these brochures, which often portray Kim as a cretin dictator playing with nuclear weapons, citing them as one of the reasons it cut off communications last year.

Moon has also urged the president Joe Biden to build on the 2018 Singapore Accord, which Trump signed with Kim to set broad targets for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

After a month-long political review, the Biden administration pledged to take a “calibrated” and “practical” approach to the North.

But the North has not yet responded to Washington’s offer to reopen the dialogue “anytime, anywhere, without preconditions.”

North Korea’s economy, already hit by international sanctions, has been further affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The country’s mounting economic problems may have forced North Korea to reopen communications with the South, according to Lee Byong-chul, a North Korea expert at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul.

Last month, Kim warned of an impending food shortage.

c.2021 The New York Times Company

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