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Inter-Korean military hotlines in normal operation after 13-month suspension: defense ministry

Inter-Korean military hotlines are back to normal operation after a 13-month suspension, the defense ministry confirmed Tuesday, saying the two Koreas will resume regular daily calls via the communication lines.

Earlier in the day, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced that the two sides agreed to reopen all direct communication lines at 10 a.m. as part of efforts to improve inter-Korean relations.

"South and North Korean military authorities restored military communication lines and put them back to normal operations from 10 a.m. Tuesday, to implement agreements by the leaders," the ministry said in a release. "Phone calls and faxing to exchange documents now operate normally."

The restoration came 413 days after Pyongyang cut off the lines in June last year in protest over Seoul's supposed failure to stop activists from sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into the communist nation.

Starting Tuesday afternoon, the two sides will also resume their regular phone calls twice a day -- at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., the ministry said.

They had made the regular calls via their eastern and western communication lines.

"The western communication line works well, but some technical problems were found in the eastern liaison line, so we've continued work to restore it," the ministry added.

Ship-to-ship radio links between the two Koreas, via the global merchant marine communication network, are also operating normally, according to ministry officials.

The western and eastern military hotlines were set up in 2002 and 2003, respectively. They had been severed for years amid tumultuous inter-Korean ties but were last restored in 2018 in line with the April 27 inter-Korean summit agreement.

The ministry said the latest restoration is expected to ease military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and to expedite the implementation of a military tension reduction agreement signed on Sept. 19, 2018, during an inter-Korean summit held in Pyongyang.

The agreement, called the Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA), calls for a series of tension-reducing measures, such as a halt to hostile acts against each other and the joint war remains excavation work inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

"The decision carries significance, particularly as we mark the 68th anniversary of the signing of the 1950-53 Korean War Armistice Agreement today," a ministry official said. "We hope there will be active discussions with the North Korean authorities about diverse joint projects."(Yonhap)