Seoul, Pyongyang dialling again . . .
South Korea and North Korea reactivated their direct communication hotline on Monday. The newly-resumed calls, scheduled twice per day, have been active since the 1970s as a key communication channel between the two sides of the 38th parallel and cover topics including disaster and humanitarian responses and arrangements for diplomatic talks. The hotline’s recent history is a stop-start affair. Pyongyang cut its use in early August in protest over the annual joint military exercise between South Korea and the United States. At the time, it had been restored for only two weeks following a long inactive period.
Renewed hope for peace . . .
South Korea's unification and defence ministries both expressed hope that the hotline restoration would help ease military tensions and prepare “the ground for bringing the relations between the two Koreas back on track.” The Korean Central News Agency, the official news agency of North Korea, called on South Korean authorities to be responsible for “mak(ing) positive efforts” and “settl(ing) the important tasks.” With Pyongyang continuing its weapons program and firing a series of new missiles in recent months, it remains uncertain to what extent the reconnection will help improve inter-Korean relations and whether it will contribute to the resumption of previously stalled denuclearization talks.
Regional actors welcome hotline restoration . . .
Regional actors, including China and the U.S., reacted favourably to the news. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented that the “key to break the deadlock on the peninsula” is that “North Korea’s reasonable concerns are taken seriously.” The U.S. State Department expressed its support for the resumption of the inter-Korean hotline, emphasizing its importance “in creating a more stable environment on the Korean peninsula.” The South Korean and U.S. foreign ministers have met several times in recent weeks – most recently on Tuesday in Paris – to better align their North Korean policies. Although not a traditional party in Korean Peninsula talks, Canada would view such a development as positive as it likely could contribute to predictability in a frequently volatile situation.