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North, South Korea talk on hotline after Pyongyang’s missile tests

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This picture taken on September 16, 2020 shows South Korean Unification Minister Lee In-young (R) looking at the inter-Korean hotline during a visit to the south side of the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas. (File photo by AFP)

North and South Korea have restored their direct communication lines in a show of readiness to resume inter-Korean talks after Pyongyang conducted a series of missile tests in the span of a few weeks.

The restoration of the hotline comes just days after North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un said he was willing to restore communication as a conditional olive branch. However, Pyongyang also said re-establishing mutual ties would depend on the “attitude of South Korean authorities.”

For the first time in nearly two months, North Korean liaison officers received phone calls from their South Korean counterparts over cross-border government and military channels on Monday morning.

Restoring communications is “part of the efforts to realize the expectation and desire of the whole nation who wants the present tough inter-Korean relations to be rehabilitated as soon as possible and wants lasting peace to be settled on the Korean Peninsula,” Kim was quoted as saying by KCNA.

“We have no purpose or reason to provoke South Korea, or any idea of hurting it,” the leader said. “South Korea should quickly get out of the wild dream that it must deter North Korea’s provocations and of its serious crisis consciousness and victim mentality.” 

South Korea’s unification ministry also confirmed that officials from the two sides exchanged their first phone call since August.

“With the restoration of the South-North communication line, the government evaluates that a foundation for recovering inter-Korean relations has been provided,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The government hopes … to swiftly resume dialogue and begin practical discussions for recovering inter-Korean relations,” it added.

Pyongyang blew up the two countries' joint-liaison office in the town of Kaesong, and cut off all official military and political communication links over Seoul's anti-Pyongyang propaganda.

The restoration of the hotline followed a string of missile tests by the North in the span of a few weeks, prompting the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting upon a request from the United States.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry's Department of International Organizations director, Jo Chol-su, described the meeting as an "open ignorance of and wanton encroachment" on the North’s sovereignty and a "serious intolerable provocation."

“This is a denial of impartiality, objectivity and equilibrium, lifelines of the UN activities, and an evident manifestation of double-dealing standard," Jo said in a statement run by KCNA.

The nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington collapsed in early 2019 as then-US President Donald Trump refused to lift sanctions in exchange for denuclearization steps by the North.

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