South and North Korea restored hotlines on Tuesday, 413 days since North Korea unilaterally severed inter-Korean communication hotline in June last year. Back then, the North blamed propaganda leaflets sent by some North Korean defectors across the border. Taking the opportunity, the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae plans to expedite the effort to improve inter-Korean ties in the final months of President Moon Jae-in’s term.
“South and North Korea have agreed to restore their severed communication hotlines as of 10 a.m., Tuesday,” presidential senior secretary for public communication Park Soo-hyun said on Tuesday. “The leaders of the two Koreas have exchanged letters since April to discuss improving inter-Korean relations and agreed to start by restoring severed communication hotlines.” Accordingly, the Ministry of Unification and the Ministry of Defense communicated with North Korea through the inter-Korean liaison office and the inter-Korean military communication line established in West Sea, respectively on Tuesday.
President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have exchanged personal letters on 10 occasions starting from Apr. 27, celebrating the third anniversary of the 2018 inter-Korean summit at Panmunjom. The two leaders made a final agreement to restore their communication lines over the weekend. After having consultations on the details of the text, the two Koreas announced their decision to restore the hotlines on Tuesday, marking the 68th anniversary of the Korean War armistice agreement. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said the two Koreas have agreed to take a big step toward restoring mutual trust and promoting reconciliation.
Starting with the restoration of hotlines, Cheong Wa Dae is expected to actively engage in inter-Korean exchange and cooperation, including providing the North with COVID-19 vaccines. Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Park Kyung-mee said the two leaders shared concerns and exchanged some words of comfort amid the situation when the two countries have suffered for a long time from the pandemic.
However, agreement by the international community, including the U.S., is a must to ease sanctions against North Korea. Furthermore, ROK-U.S. joint military exercise in August, which North Korea has demanded to be suspended, is likely to be a variable in determining the future U.S.-North Korea relations.
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