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(LEAD) South, North Korea set up direct hotline between leaders

All Headlines 16:48 April 20, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, additional information in paras 3-5, 7-8)

SEOUL, April 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and North Korea on Friday set up a telephone line between their leaders, enabling direct dialogue between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who are also set to meet in person next week.

The direct hotline was established between Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and the office of North Korea's state affairs commission, which is headed by Kim.

(LEAD) South, North Korea set up direct hotline between leaders - 1

South Korea made the first call to check the line, a Cheong Wa Dae official said, adding that there were no problems detected.

"It was as if we were talking to a neighbor right next door," the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

North Korea later returned the call to check the channel worked both ways. The entire trial conversation lasted 4 minutes and 17 seconds, according to the official.

Cheong Wa Dae officials have said direct communication between the countries' leaders may help further ease tension on the Korean Peninsula, noting that many cross-border conflicts between the two Koreas in the past may have partly been caused by misunderstanding or a lack of communication.

The telephone that links the South Korean president with the North Korean leader sits right on Moon's desk, the Cheong Wa Dae official said.

Cheong Wa Dae earlier said Moon and Kim will likely hold a telephone conversation before they meet next week.

The Koreas technically remain at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The agreement on a new hotline, the first of its kind connecting the leaders of the two Koreas, came early last month when Moon's top security adviser Chung Eui-yong traveled to Pyongyang for an unprecedented meeting with the North Korean leader.

There, Kim agreed to hold a bilateral summit with the South Korean president, as well as United States President Donald Trump.

The Moon-Kim meeting will be held next Friday. It is expected to be followed by the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit in May or early June.

The upcoming inter-Korean summit will be the third of its kind after two summits held in 2000 and 2007. It will be held on the South Korean side of the joint security area inside the heavily-fortified demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas, making Kim the first North Korean leader to step on South Korean soil since the end of the Korean War.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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