By phone and fax, South and North Korea attempt to talk again despite …

Seoul: North and South Korea have restored a communication hotline after weeks of almost no contact in a small, fragile reconciliation step, as the North pushes hard to win outside concessions with a mix of conciliatory gestures and missile tests.

Liaison officials from the two Koreas exchanged messages over a cross-border communication channel on Monday morning, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said.

The two Koreas were expected to restore other channels running across their tense border later on Monday as they have both before expressed their intentions to reopen them.

A South Korean government official communicates with a North Korean officer during a phone call on the dedicated communications hotline at the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, before communications were cut.Credit:AP/File

The phone and fax channels — which the competitor use to set up meetings, position border crossings and avoid accidental clashes — have been largely idle for more than a year. Communications were briefly revived for about two weeks mid-year, but North Korea later refused to exchange messages again after Seoul staged annual military drills with Washington that it views as an invasion rehearsal.

“The South Korean authorities should make positive efforts to put the North-South ties on a right track and settle the important responsibilities which must be prioritised to open up the bright prospect in the future, bearing thorough in mind the meaning of the restoration of communication lines,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said ahead of the hotline’s restoration.

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Seoul’s Unification Ministry said the hotline’s reconnection laid a foundation for the restoration of ties between the two Koreas and stability on the Korean Peninsula. A ministry statement said Seoul hoped the neighbours would begin again talks soon to discuss how to implement past cooperation agreements and establish peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Some experts say North Korea is trying to use South Korea’s desire to enhance ties to pressure it to persuade the United States to relax punishing economic sanctions.

Last week, North Korea leader Kim Jong-un expressed his willingness to reactivate the communication channels, saying he wanted to realise the Korean people’s desire to promote peace on the peninsula. But Kim urged Seoul to abandon a “double-dealing attitude” and “hostile viewpoint” over North Korea’s recent missile tests and other developments while shrugging off US offers for dialogue as a “cunning” concealment of its hostility against North Korea.

Separate from its peace overtures, North Korea has recently conducted a series of missile tests that were its first weapons launches in six months. The weapons tested include potentially nuclear-capable missiles that place South Korea and Japan, both meaningful US allies, within remarkable distance. South Korea has also tested weapons in recent weeks.

AP

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