(ATTN: MODIFIES headline; UPDATES lead para with resumption of daily contact, Seoul's response in first 10 paras, details in 13th para)
By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, Oct. 4 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea restored their direct communication lines Monday, about two months after they were suspended due to Pyongyang's protest against an annual combined military exercise of South Korea and the United States.
The move raises hopes for the resumption of inter-Korean dialogue that has been stalled amid a drawn-out deadlock in denuclearization talks and the Korea peace process.
The two sides had contact through a military hotline and a separate joint liaison office channel, according to related authorities here.
Hours earlier, North Korea's state media announced that the lines would be back to normal operation as of 9 a.m. on the day.
The South's government immediately expressed hope for the resumption of inter-Korean dialogue.
The reconnection of the communication lines is viewed as having "laid the ground for bringing the relations between the two Koreas back on track," the unification ministry said in a statement.
It added, "Through that stable management of the communication lines and swift resumption of dialogue, the government hopes to begin and advance substantive discussions on improving inter-Korean relations and making peace take root on the Korean Peninsula, along with implementing agreements between the two Koreas."
In its early morning report, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said, "The relevant organs decided to restore all the North-South communication lines from 9:00 on Oct. 4 true to his intention."
"The South Korean authorities should make positive efforts to put the North-South ties on a right track and settle the important tasks which must be prioritized to open up the bright prospect in the future, bearing deep in mind the meaning of the restoration of communication lines," it added.
On Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reportedly told a session of the rubber-stamp parliament, held a day earlier, that he will restore cross-border communication lines from early October. He cited a bid "to realize the expectation and desire of the entire nation who want the North-South relations to be restored as soon as possible and lasting peace to be settled on the Korean Peninsula."
But he stressed that it is entirely up to South Korea when it comes to the future trajectory of their ties.
North Korea blew up a liaison office in its border town of Kaesong and unilaterally cut off all inter-Korean communication lines in June last year in anger over anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent from the South.
The hotlines were back in operation in late July, but the North had refused to respond to Seoul's twice-a-day calls again since August in protest at the plan by South Korea and the United States to stage their joint military drills as scheduled. The North has long denounced the allies' annual military exercise as a rehearsal for invasion.
In a recent U.N. speech, President Moon Jae-in again proposed the declaration of a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea called the offer an "admirable idea," saying that it is willing to discuss improving inter-Korean relations only when Seoul stops double standards against its "defensive" weapons tests and "hostile" policy toward its regime.
Unification Minister Lee In-young told reporters in Berlin on Sunday (local time) said that South Korea will push to arrange high-level talks with North Korea before the end of this year. He was on a trip to three European countries, including Germany, to drum up support for Seoul's efforts to improve ties with Pyongyang.
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