North and South Korea reconnect cross-border hotline | News | DW | 04.10.2021

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North and South Korea reconnect cross-border hotline

Pyongyang last cut off the hotline in August after joint US-South Korea military drills. The move comes amid a series of weapons tests by the North.

Man pictured speaking on the hotline between North and South Korea in 2018

Communication between North and South Korea takes place at liaison offices

South Korea's Unification Ministry confirmed that liaison officials from the two Koreas exchanged messages via a cross-border channel on Monday morning. 

Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) had earlier announced the North would reconnect an emergency communication hotline with the South at 9 a.m. local time (0000 GMT).

The KCNA report said that South Korean authorities should "make positive efforts" to put ties "on the right track" and "settle important tasks" to open up "future prospects." 

The report did not specify what these "tasks" might entail, however, communication was cut off the last time in August over joint US-South Korea military drills.   

Last Thursday, state media had reported that Kim Jong Un was open to re-establishing contact with Seoul, saying the lines would help "realize the expectations and desire of the entire Korean nation."

What is the North-South Korea hotline?

Dozens of phone lines between North and South Korea have been in operation on and off since the 1970's to allow communication on important military and political concerns on the Korean Peninsula.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands in 2018

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has prioritized improving relations with the North during his time in office

In 2018, a direct line between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was set up, as relations had somewhat improved following three summits between the two leaders. 

However, efforts at closer ties stalled, and North Korea cut off all communication after the South was accused of failing to stop activists from floating propaganda leaflets by balloon across the border into the North.

They were reopened again in July 2021, only to be cut off two weeks later in response to joint South Korea-US military exercises, after which the North stopped responding to the South's calls. 

Relations challenged by missile tests

As Pyongyang says it wants to take steps toward improving ties with the South, at the same time, a spate of recent missile tests has heightened tensions over the past few weeks.

In late September, North Korean state media announced the successful test of a hypersonic missile.

Pyongyang also was also reported to have launched a long-range cruise missile with the capability of hitting targets 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) away. 

Earlier in September, South Korea said it had tested its first submarine-launched missile. 

North Korea is forbidden by UN sanctions from testing ballistic missiles, which it says are necessary as a "deterrent." The sanctions are also aimed at stopping its development of nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang frequently says that an end to US military ties with the South is a condition for curbing weapons development. 

Watch video 06:10

Are we seeing a new arms race on the Korean Peninsula?

kb/wmr (AP, AFP, Reuters)