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North and South Korea restore cross-border hotline: Seoul

North and South Korea restore cross-border hotline: Seoul

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in take part in a welcoming ceremony before walking to the official summit Peace House building on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom, Apr 27, 2019. (File photo: AFP/Korea Summit Press Pool)

SEOUL: North and South Korea have restored their cross-border communication, Seoul said Monday (Oct 4), after Pyongyang dropped them in August.

The restoration comes just days after Pyongyang sparked international concern with a series of missile tests in the span of a few weeks, prompting the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting.

Seoul's unification ministry confirmed that officials from the two Koreas exchanged their first phone call since August on Monday morning.

"With the restoration of the South-North communication line, the government evaluates that a foundation for recovering inter-Korean relations has been provided," the ministry said in a statement.

"The government hopes ... to swiftly resume dialogue and begin practical discussions for recovering inter-Korean relations," it added.

Earlier Monday North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "expressed the intention of restoring the cut-off north-south communication lines", state media KCNA said, reporting the move was an attempt to establish "lasting peace" on the Korean peninsula.

The two Koreas had signalled a surprise thaw in relations in late July by announcing the restoration of cross-border communications, which were severed more than a year earlier.

However, the detente was short-lived with North Korea stopped answering calls just two weeks later.

The official KCNA news agency called for Seoul to fulfil its "tasks" to recover strained cross-border ties, without elaborating.

Kim had urged South Korea to abandon its "double standards" and "delusion" over the North's self-defensive military activities while developing its own weapons.

"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," KCNA said.

Tension had flared since the hotlines were severed, with North Korea warning of a security crisis and firing a series of new missiles, including a hypersonic missile, an anti-aircraft, and a "strategic" cruise missile with potential nuclear capabilities.

The launches underlined how the isolated country has been constantly developing increasingly sophisticated weapons, amid stalled talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and missile programmes in return for US sanctions relief.

While accusing Washington of "hostile policy", Pyongyang has said it is willing to mend inter-Korean relations and consider another summit if Seoul drops double standards.

Analysts say the North's carrot-and-stick approach is aimed at securing international recognition as a nuclear weapons state and driving a wedge between the United States and South Korea, counting on South Korean President Moon Jae-in's eagerness to forge a diplomatic legacy before his term ends in May.

Source: AGENCIES/ng

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