(PresidentialInsider.com)- On Tuesday, liaison officials from both North and South Korea had several phone conversations, including one call on the military hotline, and have agreed to resume speaking on a regular basis. These message exchanges were made through communication channels that have remained dormant for more than a year.
The two rivals use these communication channels to present their positions on issues and propose a broader dialogue. Additionally, these channels play a critical role in preventing any accidental clashes along their disputed sea boundary.
The resumption of communication is a step, but only a small step. It is unlikely Pyongyang is willing to revive any vigorous cooperation programs with Seoul. Nor is it likely to return to nuclear talks led by the US in the near future.
Experts suggest that North Korea may instead be aiming to improve its ties with South Korea as a way to persuade concessions from the US when nuclear talks resume with Washington.
Nuclear talks have remained stalled for over two years due to US-led sanctions on North Korea. As the diplomatic impasse wore on, Kim Jong Un repeatedly threatened to beef up his nuclear arsenal unless the US abandons the sanctions.
On Tuesday, both Koreas announced that Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have traded several personal letters since April. Among the things Kim and Moon discussed in their correspondences was this resumption of using these communication channels.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the news and offered the UN’s full support for the Koreas’ continued efforts in improving their relationship, and hoped for the “complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Since taking office, the Biden Administration has urged North Korea to return to the negotiating table. But last month, North Korean officials dismissed the possibility that they were prepared to resume talks, going so far as saying that the US was setting itself up for disappointment.
But with the economic situation in North Korea – due in part to the crippling sanctions as well as the pandemic lockdowns – it may have no choice but to reach out to the US and South Korea. By reopening lines of communication, it is believed both North and South Korea are taking the first steps toward that end.