North Korea Restores South Korea Hotline Cut for Two Months
(Bloomberg) -- North Korea restored a hotline with South Korea it had left silent for about two months, a gesture of reconciliation after Pyongyang’s tests of new weapons designed to strike U.S. allies in the region had ratcheted up tensions.
North Korean officials answered a liaison phone call Monday, South Korean officials said. A few days earlier, leader Kim Jong Un told his parliament in Pyongyang to resume communications on the hotlines established in 2018 after he and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a series of summits aimed at decreasing tensions on their heavily armed border.
The South Korean government welcomed the move and said it looked forward to resuming inter-Korean talks promptly following the restoration of the communication links, the Unification Ministry said in a statement. Pyongyang announced its intent to restore the hotlines in a dispatch Monday from its official Korean Central News Agency.
“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 prioritized to open up the bright prospect in the future, bearing deep in mind the meaning of the restoration of communication lines,” KCNA said.
The hotlines were briefly restored in July but cut about a month later in a show of anger from Pyongyang over joint military drills by the U.S. and South Korea.
In his speech last week to the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim also sent a fresh warning to the U.S., accusing Washington of being a “fundamental danger” to the international community and saying he would boost his nuclear capabilities.
Warming to Seoul and increasing friction with the Biden administration may be a strategic move by Kim to increase his leverage if Pyongyang decides to return to nuclear disarmament talks stalled for more than two years. Pyongyang for years has been trying to drive to drive wedges between Washington and its allies, hoping to use any discord to its advantage.
North Korea may be looking to win concessions from Moon before he leaves office in May. Moon has made reconciliation with Pyongyang a top policy priority and another summit with Kim could help his legacy and give his progressive party a boost in presidential elections to replace him when his term ends next year.
“It’s apparently dangling hopes for things Moon desperately wants, like a war-ending declaration and a final summit before leaving office, while perhaps attempting to influence the presidential election in favor of the South’s left and Pyongyang,” said Duyeon Kim, an adjunct senior fellow in Seoul with the Center for a New American Security.
But in a reminder of the threat North Korea poses to the region, Kim’s regime tested three new weapons systems in September that included a hypersonic glide vehicle, long-range cruise missiles that could hit all of South Korea and most of Japan, as well as firing ballistic missiles for the first time from train cars.
Meanwhile, Kim Yo Jong, the North Korean leader’s sister who has led pressure campaigns against Seoul and Washington, about a week ago reached out to South Korea and said Pyongyang would consider taking part in another summit declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean War -- if Seoul adopted a less hostile policy.
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