Inter-Korean hotline reopens, but conflicts persist
A direct phone line between North Korea and South Korea, which had been closed two months ago, was reopened on Monday, a sign of North Korea’s attempts to defuse tensions in the hope of foreign concessions.
The direct line between Pyongyang and Seoul, about which liaison officers from the two countries communicate, is frequently a matter of diplomacy, with North Korea periodically shutting it down in response to tensions in relations between the two countries.
The South Korean Unification Ministry, which oversees diplomacy with Pyongyang, released a video of a South Korean soldier speaking to his North Korean counterpart, saying Seoul was “very happy” that the communication channels have been restored.
A topic of discussion between the two nations involved fishing along the western coast of the peninsula, where fishing boats operate on both sides, sometimes leading to small-scale military skirmishes. One of the hotline’s goals, Seoul said, would be to prevent such incidents through communication.
The hotline in question is a series of telephone and fax channels used by the two Korean states to schedule meetings and organize border crossings. Although the hotline has been turned off and on several times during the year, it has largely avoided its use since 2019, due to an increase in South Korean leaflets attached to balloons floating across the border with Korea. of the North – a provocation that North Korea strongly condemned. and that South Korea has largely banned for good relations reasons.
While the hotline was briefly reopened over the summer, it was closed again after an annual South Korean-led military exercise, which Pyongyang said it saw as a repeat of a ground invasion of the United States. country.
The reopening of the hotline appears to have come at the behest of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, who previously acknowledged the scale of North Korea’s problems and suggested that better relations with the rest of the world may be needed. .
However, some observers have questioned whether Kim intends to honestly continue a good relationship, noting a series of recent missile tests conducted by North Korea, perhaps suggesting that the hotline’s restoration is a distraction from the tests. , which were condemned by the UN Security Council.
Negotiations between North Korea and the United States have not really resumed since 2019, after the failure of a high-profile summit between Kim and then-President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam. North Korea has not tested any ballistic missiles with sufficient range to strike the United States since 2018.
Trevor Filseth is a current affairs and foreign affairs writer for the National interest.