The two Koreas agree to restore their military telephone link

Ⓒ Dong-A Ilbo/AFP – – – | South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myung-Gyun (g) shakes hands with North Korean delegation leader Ri Son-Gwon (d) during a meeting in Panmunjom on January 9, 2018

Seoul and Pyongyang decided on Tuesday, during their first two-year talks, to re-establish one of their military telephone links, a South Korean official said a few days after a civilian phone line was restarted.

North Korea said the military line in the western part of the border had been restarted, said South Korean Vice Minister of Unification Chun Hae-Sung.

“Our camp has decided to start reusing this military phone line from 8:00 am tomorrow morning,” he said.

The phone line was shut down in February 2016 after Seoul suspended operations on the Kaesong inter-Korean industrial zone to protest the North’s diversion of revenue from the complex to fund its ballistic and nuclear programs.

Another military phone line between the two Koreas, located in the eastern part of the border, was cut in 2008 when Seoul suspended travel to the North Korean tourist resort of Mount Kumgang. It is not operational due to technical issues.

These two military telephone lines were set up in 2002-2003 during the brief period of relaxation between the two Koreas.

Meanwhile, both sides had re-established last Wednesday the existing civil telephone link at the border village of Panmunjom, where the first negotiations between North and South began on Tuesday morning since December 2015.

This “red telephone” was set up in the early 1970s to allow for the setting up of governmental meetings on political or humanitarian issues.

It has, however, been repeatedly disconnected and re-established, following the jolts of the relationship between the two Koreas, which remain technically at war, with the 1950-53 conflict halted by an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The reopening of the “red telephone” came after Seoul’s offer of dialogue, which itself responded to a helping hand from the North Korean leader.

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