North and South Korea restore hotline after Pyongyang tests

Seoul says it hopes move will be a ‘foundation’ to rebuilding ties tested by a recent series of missile launches.

A South Korean government official communicates with a North Korean officer during a phone call on the dedicated communications hotline at the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea
South Korea said a communication hotline with the North was reconnected on Monday [File: South Korea Unification Ministry via AP Photo]

North and South Korea have restored their cross-border hotline, the government in Seoul said on Monday, with officials exchanging their first phone call since August.

The move comes just days after Pyongyang sparked international concern with a series of missile tests in the span of a few weeks, prompting an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

Seoul’s unification ministry confirmed that officials from the two Koreas exchanged their first phone call since August on Monday morning.

“With the restoration of the South-North communication line, the government evaluates that a foundation for recovering inter-Korean relations has been provided,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The government hopes … to swiftly resume dialogue and begin practical discussions for recovering inter-Korean relations,” it added.

Earlier on Monday, North Korean state media reported that the line would be restored at 9am (00:00 GMT).

KCNA said leader Kim Jong Un “expressed the intention of restoring the cut-off north-south communication lines” in an attempt to establish “lasting peace” on the Korean Peninsula.

In Washington, a US State Department spokesperson said it strongly supports inter-Korean cooperation, calling the reconnected lines “an important component in creating a more stable environment on the Korean Peninsula.”

On Twitter, Liu Xiaoming, the special representative of the Chinese Government on Korean Peninsula Affairs, described the move to restore the connection as “remarkable progress”.

Pyongyang blew up the two countries joint-liaison office in the town of Kaesong, and then unilaterally cut off all official military and political communication links because it said Seoul was not doing enough to stop activists sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.

The two sides said on July 27 this year that all lines were restored, but two weeks later Pyongyang again stopped answering calls.

Last month, Pyongyang carried out a series of missile tests including a hypersonic weapon, and a cruise missile with nuclear capabilities.

South Korea also tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

Kim and Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, held a series of summits in 2018, but failed to achieve any significant breakthrough.

International talks aimed at dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes collapsed the following year over Pyongyang’s demands for sanctions relief.

Unification Minister Lee In-young, who is in Berlin on a European visit, told reporters in the German capital on Sunday that South Korea would push for high-level talks to take place with North Korea before the end of this year, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies