North and South Korea restore communications hotline despite missile test tension

·3-min read
File: A South Korean government official communicates with a North Korean officer through hotline  (South Korea Unification Ministry)
File: A South Korean government official communicates with a North Korean officer through hotline (South Korea Unification Ministry)

North and South Korea restored a crucial cross-border communications line which was stalled since August.

Liaison officials from the two countries exchanged messages over the hotline on Monday morning, confirmed Seoul’s Ministry of Unification.

The North's supreme leader Kim Jong-un had earlier said the country was willing to reestablish the line as a conditional olive branch.

Pyongyang's gesture to fix fragile diplomatic relations, however, comes amid international concerns over the series of missile tests it has conducted within a month. The military show of aggression has prompted an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

The North test-fired four missiles in less than a month, including a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile known for its stealth and speed.

Lashing out at the North, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that the missile tests “create greater prospects for instability and insecurity.” Pyongyang argued that its weapons are for self-defence and accused the US and South Korea of “double standards.”

The two Koreas are likely to restore other communication channels running across the border later in the day. The phone and fax channels which the Koreas use to set up meetings, arrange border crossings and avoid accidental clashes have been dormant for over a year.

“The South Korean authorities should make positive efforts to put the North-South ties on a right track and settle the important tasks which must be prioritised to open up the bright prospect in the future, bearing deep in mind the meaning of the restoration of communication lines,” Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said ahead of the restoration.

Seoul’s unification ministry said the hotline’s reconnection laid a foundation for the restoration of ties between the two Koreas. “The government hopes to resume dialogue and begin practical discussions for recovering inter-Korean relations,” a statement from the ministry said.

Communications between the two countries have been stalled and restored multiple times. Pyongyang severed its hotline with Seoul in August, registering its protest against US-South Korea military drills that it viewed to be an “invasion rehearsal.”

In 2020, following a failed summit with the South, Pyongyang blew up an inter-Korean border office in the town of Kaesong that was built to improve communications.

Last week, the North Korean leader expressed his willingness to reactivate the communication channels if Seoul dropped its “double standards” towards the hermit kingdom. He also urged the South to shrug off its “hostile viewpoint” over the North’s recent missile tests.

Pyongyang’s outreach followed South Korean president Moon Jae-in’s renewed calls for a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War to promote peace in the Korean peninsula.

During the recent UN General Assembly in New York, the South Korean president called for the end-of-the-war declaration to be signed among the two Koreas, the US and China.

The North Korean leader’s powerful sister Kim Yo-jong last week said Pyongyang was willing to consider an inter-Korean summit on the basis of mutual respect and impartiality.

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