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N. Korea says restoration of cross-border hotline will play positive role in improving relations

This file photo shows a South Korean official making a test call with North Korea after the restoration of cross-border hotline on Tuesday.
This file photo shows a South Korean official making a test call with North Korea after the restoration of cross-border hotline on Tuesday.
North Korea said Tuesday that the restoration of communication lines with South Korea will play a positive role in improving relations between the two sides after the severed lines returned to operation after a 13-month suspension.

"Now, the whole Korean nation desires to see the North-South relations recovered from setback and stagnation as early as possible," the official Korean Central News Agency said, confirming that all inter-Korean communication liaison lines were restored as of 10 a.m.

"The top leaders of the North and the South agreed to make a big stride in recovering the mutual trust and promoting reconciliation by restoring the cutoff inter-Korean communication liaison lines through the recent several exchanges of personal letters," the KCNA said.

The restoration "will have positive effects on the improvement and development" of inter-Korean relations, it said.

The same day, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae also announced that the two sides agreed to reopen all direct communication lines, saying that President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have exchanged personal letters on multiple occasions since April for the resumption.

The restoration comes around 13 months after North Korea cut off inter-Korean communication lines in June last year and blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in anger over the sending of anti-Pyongyang leaflets into the North from the South.

The unification ministry voiced hope for an improvement in inter-Korean relations.

"The government welcomes the restoration of the inter-Korean communication lines starting today as agreed by the two Koreas," Lee Jong-joo, the ministry's spokesperson, told a press briefing.

"We hope that the communication between the two Koreas will not be suspended again and through the restored communication contact lines, we hope that the two Koreas can discuss various pending issues and implement what was agreed between them," she said.

Lee said the two sides will begin resuming their regular phone calls twice a day Tuesday.

"We proposed to the North that the two Koreas resume the regular phone calls at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and the North responded positively to us," she said.

During the morning phone call, the South Korean liaison officer told his North Korean counterpart that he was pleased to see the communication lines restored, and the North Korean officer mostly listened with a responsive attitude, according to officials.

The ministry said that a phone call was successfully carried out through the Panmunjom channel at 10 a.m. while communication through the inter-Korean liaison office took place later at 11:04 a.m. due to technical reasons and lasted for three minutes.

"We attempted to call them at 10 a.m., but it took some time for technical checks and the actual call started a little over 11 a.m.," a ministry official said.

All personnel working at the inter-Korean liaison office in the North's border town of Kaesong returned to Seoul and set up new communication lines early last year after the two Koreas agreed to temporarily shut down the office amid coronavirus concerns.

Although the North blew up the liaison office last summer, the official said the communication lines remain in place. (Yonhap)