27 July 2021

Koreas restore communication channels and agree to improve ties

27 July 2021

South and North Korea have restored communication channels and their leaders have agreed to improve ties, both governments said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reached the agreement during several exchanges of letters since April, the presidential office in Seoul said.

The two leaders agreed to “restore mutual confidence and develop their relationships again as soon as possible”, Blue House spokesman Park Soo Hyun said in a televised briefing.

He added that the two Koreas subsequently reopened communication channels on Tuesday morning.

North Korea’s state media quickly confirmed the South Korean announcement.

The official Korean Central News Agency said: “Now, the whole Korean nation desires to see the North-South relations recovered from setback and stagnation as early as possible.

“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 cut-off inter-Korean communication liaison lines through the recent several exchanges of personal letters.”

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, front center, offers a flower at a liberation war martyrs cemetery in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, July 27, 2021 to mark the end of the Korean War. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Last year, North Korea cut off all communication channels with South Korea in protest at what it called South Korea’s failure to stop activists from floating anti-Pyongyang leaflets across their border.

Some experts said the North Korean action signalled that the North had grown frustrated that Seoul has failed to revive lucrative inter-Korean economic projects and persuade the United States to ease sanctions.

The nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang have made little headway since early 2019, when the second of three summits between Mr Kim and then-President Donald Trump collapsed.

Mr Kim has since threatened to bolster his nuclear arsenal and build more sophisticated weapons unless the Americans lifts policies the North considers hostile — believed to refer to the longstanding US-led sanctions.

Some experts earlier said North Korea may be compelled to reach out to the US or South Korea if its economic difficulties worsen.

Mismanagement, storm damage and border shutdowns during the coronavirus pandemic have further depleted North Korea’s economy and Mr Kim in recent speeches called for his people to brace for prolonged Covid-19 restrictions.

While his remarks may indicate the potential for a worsening economic situation, outside monitoring groups have not seen signs of mass starvation or social chaos in the country of 26 million people.

Tuesday marks the 68th anniversary of the signing of an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. The Koreas remain split along the world’s most heavily fortified border since the end of the war.

About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from North Korea.

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