North, South Korea restore cross-border hotline with first call in months

North Korea-South Korea: The restoration comes just days after North Korea sparked international concern with a series of missile tests in the span of a few weeks
Representative image
Representative image

Seoul

North and South Korea have restored their cross-bordercommunication, with officials exchanging their first phone call Monday afterdropping them in August.

The restoration comes just days after Pyongyang sparkedinternational concern with a string of missile tests in the span of a fewweeks, prompting the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting.

The two Koreas had signalled a surprise thaw in relations inlate July by announcing the resumption of cross-border communications --severed more than a year earlier -- but the detente was short-lived, as NorthKorea stopped answering calls just two weeks later.

Seoul's unification ministry confirmed officials from thetwo rivals exchanged their first phone call since August on Monday morning.

The South's defence ministry meanwhile confirmed thatcross-border military communications have also resumed.

"With the restoration of the South-North communicationline, the government evaluates that a foundation for recovering inter-Koreanrelations has been provided," the unification ministry said in astatement.

"The government hopes... to swiftly resume dialogue andbegin practical discussions for recovering inter-Korean relations," itadded.

Earlier Monday North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had"expressed the intention of restoring the cut-off north-southcommunication lines," North Korea's official news agency KCNA said.

They reported that the move was an attempt to establish"lasting peace" on the Korean peninsula.

Ignoring calls

North Korea had unilaterally cut off all official militaryand political communication links in June last year over activists sendinganti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.The two sides said on July 27 this year that all lines wererestored.

Their joint announcement, which coincided with theanniversary of the end of the Korean War, was the first positive developmentsince a series of summits between Kim and the South's President Moon Jae-in in2018 failed to achieve any significant breakthrough.

The leaders had a first phone call that same morning,Seoul's unification ministry said, with the defence ministry adding thatmilitary hotlines were also back to normal operation.

The two sides also revealed at the time that Kim and Moonhad exchanged a series of letters since April in which they agreed thatre-establishing hotlines would be a productive first step in rebootingrelations between the two rivals who, despite the end of their 1950-53conflict, remain technically at war.

But the cross-border communication lasted for just twoweeks. The North began ignoring calls in August, taking issue with jointUS-South Korean military drills.

In the period since, the North held a series oftension-raising missile tests.

In September, it launched what it said was a long-rangecruise missile, and earlier this week it tested what it described as ahypersonic gliding vehicle, which South Korea's military said appeared to be inthe early stages of development.

On Friday it said it had successfully fired a new anti-aircraftmissile.

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