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(LEAD) N. Korea answers S. Korea's calls via radio hotline

All News 14:20 August 03, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS more comments, N.K. military moves in paras 3-6, 9-10)
By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Aug. 3 (Yonhap) -- North Korea answered South Korea's calls via a radio hotline on Tuesday for the first time since all fixed communication lines between the two sides were restored last week, officials said.

Last week, South and North Korea reopened all cross-border communication lines, including military hotlines, 13 months after Pyongyang cut them off in protest over anti-regime propaganda leaflets flying in from the South.

Though both of the two direct military communication lines -- the western and eastern hotlines -- operated normally, Pyongyang had not answered the South's calls via radio links shared among international merchant ships, officials said.

"This morning, we again called the North at the designated time via the international merchant marine network hotline, and got an answer from the North," a ministry official said.

The two sides are supposed to speak to each other via ship-to-ship radio link twice a day, the official said, adding the restoration of the hotline is expected to help prevent accidental clashes at sea, the official said.

The restoration of the radio hotline came after Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, warned Sunday that the future of inter-Korean relations will be clouded if an annual summertime exercise between the South and the United States goes ahead.

Seoul and Washington have usually staged their major combined exercises twice a year -- around in March and August. Though the two countries say they are regular and defensive in nature, the North has branded them as a rehearsal for invasion.

The defense ministry has said that it is discussing details of the upcoming exercise with the U.S.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the North has not shown any unusual military moves.

"We are watching related moves in close coordination with the U.S. intelligence authorities and maintain a firm readiness posture," JCS spokesperson Col. Kim Jun-rak said during a regular defense ministry briefing.

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)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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