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North and South Korea resume hotline

Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in have exchanged letters in recent months and agreed to improve their relations, starting with the reopening of a hotline between Seoul and Pyongyang.

North and South Korea have agreed to resume their interrupted hotline channel, both sides said on Tuesday.

Hotlines between North and South Korea have been in operation since the 1970s but have had to be interrupted several times. Pyongyang last shut them down in June 2020.

The announcement of improved relations between the two countries marked the 68th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the Korean War.

What did the South Korean side say?

The leaders of the two countries have been exchanging letters since April and agreed to resume phone calls as a first step.

“In accordance with the agreement reached between the top leaders, North and South Korea reopened all inter-Korean communication lines from 10:00 a.m. on 27 July,” the official North Korean news agency KCNA said.

According to KCNA, the two leaders “agreed to take a big step towards restoring mutual trust and promoting reconciliation by restoring inter-Korean lines of communication, which have been disrupted by several recent personal exchanges of letters”.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office said he had exchanged personal letters with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to improve relations.

“The two leaders also agreed to restore mutual trust between the two Koreas as soon as possible and to advance relations between the two countries again,” Moon’s office said in a statement.

Why did Pyongyang cut ties?

Last year, Pyongyang cut all communication channels with Seoul because it believed South Korea was not preventing activists from spreading anti-North Korean leaflets across the border.

North Korea severed ties with South Korea after the second summit between Kim Jong-un and then US President Donald Trump in Hanoi failed and nuclear talks stalled.

Since then, Kim Jong-un has threatened to strengthen North Korea’s nuclear arsenal if the US does not end its “hostile” policy towards Pyongyang.

Moon had called for a resumption of the hotline and talks with Kim Jong-un, hoping that US President Joe Biden would help resume talks to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.

Some political analysts speculate that economic pressure on Pyongyang – allegedly triggered by the coronavirus pandemic – could prompt Kim Jong-un to move closer to Seoul or Washington.

Biden’s special envoy to North Korea, however, offered to meet with Pyongyang’s representatives without preconditions.

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