SEOUL, South Korea – The two Koreas on Monday restored their hotlines that the north split months ago, and Pyongyang urged Seoul to step up efforts to improve relations after criticizing the so-called double standards on weapons development.
North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong Un last week expressed his willingness to reactivate the hotlines, which North Korea cut off in early August in protest against joint South Korean and US military exercises, just days after reopening for the first time in a year.
Pyongyang’s official news agency, KCNA, announced that phone connections would be restored on Monday at 9 a.m. (Sunday at 8 p.m. ET).
The South confirmed that regular two-time communications via military and other Reunification Ministry hotlines resumed on time, with the exception of the naval channel, which was set up in an international network for merchant ships.
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The hotlines are a rare tool to bypass the rivals, but it was unclear whether their reconnection would enable a meaningful return to talks aimed at dismantling the north’s nuclear and missile programs in return for easing U.S. sanctions .
KCNA urged Seoul to do its “assignments” to mend strained cross-border relationships and reiterated Kim’s speech last week that he had decided to restore the lines in order to realize people’s hopes for thaw and peace.
In this speech, Kim urged South Korea to give up its “double standards” and “delusion” about the north’s military self-defense activities while developing its own weapons.
“The South Korean authorities should make positive efforts to put North-South relations on the right track and solve the important tasks that need to be prioritized in order to open up bright prospects for the future,” said KCNA.
The Seoul Ministry of Defense said the hotlines had helped prevent unexpected clashes and that their reopening would hopefully result in a significant easing of military tensions.
The Ministry of Reunification, responsible for inter-Korean affairs, expressed the hope that it would soon be able to resume dialogue on ways to restore relations and promote peace.
In Washington, a US State Department spokesman said it strongly supports inter-Korean cooperation and called the reconnected lines “an important component in creating a more stable environment on the Korean peninsula.”
Tensions had flared since the hotlines were interrupted when North Korea warned of a security crisis and launched a range of new missiles, including a hypersonic missile, an anti-aircraft missile and a “strategic” cruise missile with potentially nuclear capabilities.
The launches highlighted how the isolated country is constantly developing ever more sophisticated weapons and increasing its use in stalled denuclearization negotiations.
Pyongyang accused Washington of “hostile policies” but said it was ready to improve inter-Korean relations and to consider another summit if Seoul were to measure double standards.
Analysts say the North’s carrot-and-whip approach aims to secure international recognition as a nuclear-armed state and drive a wedge between the United States and South Korea, and are counting on the zeal of South Korean President Moon Jae-in to forging a diplomatic legacy before his term ends next year.