North Korea restores communications hotline with South after a year

North and South Korea have restored a communications hotline that Pyongyang severed a year ago when relations between the two countries deteriorated.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un reached the agreement with South Korean President Moon Jae-in following an exchange of letters between the leaders since April, the South’s presidential office said.

The pair agreed to “restore mutual confidence and develop their relationships again as soon as possible,” Blue House spokesman Park Soo-hyun said.

The two Koreas subsequently reopened communication channels on Tuesday morning, he added.

North Korea’s state media quickly confirmed the South Korean announcement, with the official Korean Central News Agency saying: “Now, the whole Korean nation desires to see the North-South relations recovered from setback and stagnation as early as possible.

“In this regard, the top leaders of the North and the South agreed to make a big stride in recovering the mutual trust and promoting reconciliation by restoring the cutoff inter-Korean communication liaison lines through the recent several exchanges of personal letters.”

North Korea cut off all communication channels with the South last year in protest at what it denounced as South Korea’s failure to stop activists from floating anti-Pyongyang leaflets across their border.

It came as cross-border ties deteriorated following a failed second summit in February 2019 between Mr Kim and the former US president Donald Trump, which Mr Moon had offered to mediate.

The North later blew up an empty South Korean-built liaison office just north of the countries’ border.

Some experts suggested North Korea’s actions signalled it had grown frustrated that Seoul has failed to revive lucrative inter-Korean economic projects and persuade the US to ease sanctions.

According to Mr Moon’s office, the letters between the two leaders did not discuss holding a summit or phone talks between them.

Nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington have made little progress since 2019, when the second of three summits between Mr Kim and Mr Trump collapsed.

The North Korean leader has since threatened to bolster his nuclear arsenal and build more sophisticated weapons unless the Americans lift policies the North considers hostile.

Some experts said North Korea may be compelled to reach out to the US or South Korea if its economic difficulties worsen.

Seoul’s defence ministry confirmed twice-daily communication had been resumed via a military hotline on Tuesday and the Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, also said telephone lines installed at the border truce village of Panmunjom were restored.

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