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(3rd LD) Inter-Korean military hotlines in normal operation after 13-month suspension: defense ministry

North Korea 17:26 July 27, 2021

(ATTN: CHANGES photo with latest one; ADDS more details in paras 5-7)
By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, July 27 (Yonhap) -- 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.

This photo, provided by the defense ministry on July 27, 2021, shows a South Korean service member using the inter-Korean western military communication line. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

According to sources, the North first initiated the call via the military line.

After the North Korean caller asked about call quality, the South Korean respondent said it was fine and asked the North the same question, and the North Korean official responded the same way, according to the sources.

The two sides then exchanged faxes and confirmed that their communication line worked normally.

The two sides also agreed to hold regular phone calls twice a day -- at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. --, and they had communication normally at 4 p.m. Tuesday via the western communication line, the ministry said.

South and North Korea 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," according to the ministry.

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."

Flags of South Korea and the United Nations are brought down at a South Korean guard post in the Demilitarized Zone on Nov. 9, 2018, in this photo provided by the defense ministry. Ministry officials said South and North Korea each have withdrawn troops and firearms from 11 guard posts as of Nov. 10 for their complete demolition, one of the inter-Korean military agreements aimed at easing cross-border tensions. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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