SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The leaders of North and South Korea restored suspended communication channels between them and agreed to improve ties, both governments said Tuesday, amid a 2 ½ year-stalemate in U.S.-led diplomacy aimed at stripping North Korea of its nuclear weapons.
While the move could certainly help ease animosities on the Korean Peninsula, it’s unclear whether Pyongyang would go as far as to revive previous vigorous cooperation programs with Seoul and get back to the nuclear talks with Washington. Some experts say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un merely intends to burnish his international image or use South Korea as leverage ahead of a potential resumption of talks with the U.S.
Since April, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in exchanged personal letters several times and decided to normalize the cross-border communication channels as a first step toward improving relations, Moon’s office said.
The two leaders agreed to “restore mutual confidence and develop their relationships again as soon as possible,” senior Blue House official Park Soo Hyun said in a televised briefing. Park said the two Koreas subsequently reopened communication channels on Tuesday morning.
North Korea’s state media quickly confirmed the South Korean announcement.
“Now, the whole Korean nation desires to see the North-South relations recovered from setback and stagnation as early as possible,” the official Korean Central News Agency said. “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.”
Last year, North Korea cut off all communication channels with South Korea in protest of what it called South Korea’s failure to stop activists from floating anti-Pyongyang leaflets across their border. An angry North Korea later blew up an empty, South Korean-built liaison office just north of the countries’ border.
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