In a surprise thaw, two Koreas re-establish communications that had been cut off.
On Tuesday, North and South Korea announced the resumption of cross-border communications that had been cut off more than a year ago, as well as the exchange of a series of letters between their leaders.
After fears of activists passing anti-Pyongyang pamphlets across the border, the North unilaterally cut off all official military and political communication ties in June of last year.
Despite three meetings between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in 2018, inter-Korean relations were at a standstill.
However, both parties claimed that all communication links were restored on Tuesday.
North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said that “the north and the south adopted a measure to re-operate all inter-Korean communication liaison lines from 10:00 on July 27,” citing an agreement reached between the two senior leaders.
Kim and Moon have been exchanging personal letters aimed at repairing ties since April, according to the South Korean president’s office, and have agreed to restore the hotlines as a first step.
“The two leaders also committed to restore mutual trust between the two Koreas as quickly as possible so that the relationship may move forward again.”
In June 2018, the dovish Moon is credited with arranging the first-ever meeting between North Korea and a sitting US president in Singapore.
However, after a second summit between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump in Hanoi collapsed, Pyongyang effectively cut off relations with Seoul, putting nuclear talks on hold.
Pyongyang and Washington have taken a wait-and-see approach to ties since President Joe Biden took office, following Trump’s diplomatic roller coaster that resulted in three summits but no deal on destroying the North’s nuclear program.
In June, Kim stated that Pyongyang must prepare for both “dialogue and confrontation” with the United States, with a focus on the latter.
In a recent review of its plan to persuade the impoverished North to give up its nuclear weapons and missile programs, the White House promised a “realistic, calibrated approach” – including diplomatic attempts.
In June, Sung Kim, the top US diplomat in charge of North Korean negotiations, stated that the US was willing to meet with Pyongyang “anywhere, anytime, without preconditions.”
Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister and a crucial adviser, however, turned down the offer.
Analysts believe Kim’s initial response to Washington’s offer of negotiations was the restoration of inter-Korean hotlines on Tuesday.
“It appears that he has made the decision to restore inter-Korean relations. Brief News from Washington Newsday.