After a break of more than a year, North and South Korea have resumed their official communication.
Pyongyang / Seoul – As both sides announced on Tuesday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un agreed to open all inter-Korean communication channels. Pyongyang cut all official communication channels with South Korea last year, thereby exacerbating tensions in the nuclear conflict.
As announced by the South Korean Presidential Office, Moon and Kim had been correspondence with each other again in personal letters since April. The aim is to improve relationships, and the re-establishment of communication links is now the first step in that direction. Both heads of state have also agreed to “restore mutual trust between the two Koreas”.
The South Korean Ministry of Reunification announced that Moon and Kim already spoke on the phone on Tuesday. The Ministry of Defense announced that the military hotlines between the two sides were fully operational again.
The official Korean news agency KCNA confirmed the resumption of contacts. Since Tuesday at 10 a.m. (local time; 3 a.m. CEST), all official connections between Seoul and Pyongyang have been back in operation.
Pyongyang announced in June of last year that all official communication channels with South Korea would be completely cut off. The background was a dispute over an action by South Korean activists who had sent leaflets across the border with critical messages about the policy of Pyongyang. Also in June of last year, North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in the border town of Kaesong.
However, by then there was hardly any direct contact between Pyongyang and Seoul. Since the failure of a second summit meeting between Kim and then US President Donald Trump in Hanoi in February 2019, North Korea had refused to hold talks with the South Korean government.
Experts also interpret the unexpected rapprochement as a signal from Pyongyang to the new US administration of President Joe Biden. Both North Korea and the US government had behaved in a wait-and-see manner since Biden took office with a view to dealing with one another. In June, Kim announced that North Korea must prepare for both “dialogue and confrontation” with the Biden-led US.
Meanwhile, the White House said it wanted to take a “pragmatic approach” in North Korea policy in order to achieve nuclear disarmament in the isolated country. The US special envoy for North Korea, Sung Kim, said in June that Washington is ready “at any time” and “without preconditions” to meet with the Pyongyang leadership – an offer that Kim’s influential sister Kim Yo Jong immediately rejected.
North Korea expert Yang Moo Jin assessed the recent rapprochement between Seoul and Pyongyang as a sign that North Korea’s rulers consider the resumption of contacts with Seoul “internally and externally advantageous”. Despite the deadlock in negotiations with North Korea, South Korean President Moon has always insisted on the recovery of intra-Korean relations. The willingness to re-establish contact with South Korea “should be understood as the first response from Kim Jong Un to Seoul and Washington,” said Yang.
AFP / isd / gap