North Korea’s Kim Open to Restoring Communications With South Korea

Seoul urged Pyongyang to reopen hotlines; U.N. Security Council to meet Thursday

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a parliament meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sept. 29, 2021. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
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By Mimi Nguyen Ly

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday expressed a willingness to restore dormant communications with South Korea, days after Seoul called on Pyongyang to do so.

His remarks come just days after North Korea fired a newly-developed hypersonic missile toward the Sea of Japan off its east coast, marking its third weapons test in just over two weeks.

Diplomats said that the U.N. Security Council will meet behind closed-doors later on Thursday over the reclusive country’s latest test following requests from the United States, Britain, and France.

Restoring Hotlines

State mouthpiece KCNA reported Thursday that Kim said he was willing to restart cross-border hotlines, which have been largely halted for over a year. He made the remarks at North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament on its second day of discussions.

North Korea had cut the hotlines in early August, just weeks after the two Koreas restored the hotlines on July 27. North Korea’s gesture was in apparent retaliation to joint South Korea–U.S. military drills that started Aug. 10.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, responsible for inter-Korean affairs, had on Sept. 26 urged North Korea to restore dormant communication channels as a starting point to restart talks on ending the 1950–53 Korean War, which halted in a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty.

On Thursday, the South Korean ministry welcomed Kim’s remarks on the cross-border communications and said it will prepare for the restoration of the hotlines, which it said is needed to discuss many pending issues. It added that the “stable operation” of the channels is expected.

North Korea previously severed communications in June 2020 following a failed peace summit, after which it blew up an inter-Korean liaison office building just inside its border that was built to improve communications.

Accusations From Pyongyang

The ministry did not comment on Kim’s other remarks on Thursday, which involved him criticizing South Korea for its ties to the United States. Kim also accused Seoul of being “bent on begging external support and cooperation while clamoring for international cooperation in servitude to the United States,” according to a translation via The Associated Press.

Kim also accused the United States of not changing its “hostile policy” toward North Korea and continuing its own military activities while it was seeking talks aimed at dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs in return for U.S. sanctions relief.

“The U.S. is touting ‘diplomatic engagement’ and ‘dialogue without preconditions’ but it is no more than a petty trick for deceiving the international community and hiding its hostile acts,” Kim said, accusing the Biden administration of “employing more cunning ways and methods,” according to a translation via Reuters.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter said on Sept. 28, “We remain committed to a diplomatic approach to the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], and we also call on the DPRK to engage in dialogue.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in an address to the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 21, called for a formal end to the Korean War and proposed the two Koreas make a symbolic peace declaration. But North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae Song said that the call was premature because there is no guarantee that the United States would withdraw its “hostile policy.”

Prior to North Korea’s latest hypersonic missile launch on Sept. 28, it conducted two other tests. On Sept. 11 and Sept. 12 it test-fired a new long-range cruise missile capable of hitting targets about 932 miles (1,500 kilometers) away, which puts all of Japan and U.S. military installations there within striking range. Just days later, Pyongyang launched two ballistic missiles from a train, hitting an intended target at 497 miles (800 kilometres) away.

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