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(LEAD) Two Koreas fully restore western military communication line

All Headlines 10:58 July 17, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, July 17 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea fully restored their military communication line on the western part of the peninsula Tuesday, Seoul's defense ministry said, a step to build confidence and reduce cross-border tensions.

The complete restoration of fax and phone connections was part of an agreement from last month's inter-Korean general-grade military talks, the first such meeting in more than a decade.

The western line was suspended in 2016 following Seoul's shutdown of the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong, but its telephone link was restored in January ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, where the North participated.

For the restoration work, the South provided the North with necessary materials, such as optical fiber cable transmission equipment and fax machines following consultations with the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) and the U.S. government to avoid any breach of the current sanctions regime.

The UNSC has reportedly approved the provision as an exception to the sanctions regime.

"As the western communication line is fully recovered and normalized as part of efforts to enforce the Panmunjom Declaration, this would practically contribute to the two Koreas' efforts to dial down tensions and build trust," a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

The official was referring to the declaration from the April 27 inter-Korean summit under which the two sides agreed to halt all hostile acts against each other, enhance bilateral ties and pursue the complete denuclearization of the peninsula.

The two Koreas are also set to restore the eastern line. It was blocked in 2011 amid military tensions and then completely severed due to a wildfire in 2013.

The restoration of the communication lines is seen as an initial step in the two Koreas' confidence building, which military officials hope will lead to their joint efforts for conventional arms control.

Arms control measures are expected to include repositioning artillery units away from the border and disarming the Joint Security Area in the Demilitarized Zone separating the peninsula.

This file photo, taken in September 2013, shows a South Korean solider using a western inter-Korean military communication line. (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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