SKorea Urges North to Restore Hotlines 09/26 10:50
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- South Korea on Sunday urged North Korea to
restore dormant communication hotlines, a day after the North repeated an offer
to open conditional talks.
The North might be seeking to extract concessions about two weeks after it
raised tensions by carrying out its first missile tests in six months. North
Korea has twice reached out to South Korea saying it's open to talks if
conditions are met.
Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said
Saturday the two Koreas can take steps toward reconciliation if South Korea
abandons "hostile polices" and "double-dealing standards."
She didn't elaborate on what specific steps she wants South Korea to take.
But some experts say North Korea wants South Korea to play a role in winning
relief from U.S.-led sanctions, getting aid, or receiving other concessions
such as international recognition as a nuclear weapons state.
On Sunday, South Korea's Unification Ministry called Kim Yo Jong's statement
"meaningful," saying the South has been consistently pushing to achieve
denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue.
To hold talks on beginning steps toward reconciliation, a ministry statement
said that suspended cross-border communication lines must be reactivated
quickly to promote stable communications between the divided countries. It said
Seoul hopes the two Koreas can resume talks on many pending issues.
The South Korean statement refers to a set of phone- and fax-like
communication channels between the rivals, which have been largely dormant for
more than a year. The two Koreas briefly resumed communications over the
channels for about two weeks this summer, but North Korea later refused to
exchange messages again after Seoul staged annual military drills with
Earlier this month, North Korea carried out tests of ballistic and cruise
missiles in its first such launches since March, displaying an ability to
attack South Korea and Japan, both key U.S. allies. North Korea still maintains
a moratorium on testing longer-range missiles capable of reaching the American
homeland, a suggestion that it wants to keep alive the chances for future
diplomacy with the U.S.
Relations between the Koreas flourished in 2018, when Seoul helped arrange
high-profile nuclear diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang, including a
summit between Kim Jong Un and then-U.S. President Donald Trump. But Pyongyang
cut off ties with Seoul after the Kim-Trump diplomacy broke down in 2019 due to
disputes over the U.S.-led sanctions.
The recent North Korean outreach came as a response to South Korean
President Moon Jae-in's renewed calls for a political declaration to officially
end the 1950-53 Korean War as a way to promote peace. The Korean War ended with
an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still
technically at war.
As possible reconciliation steps, Kim Yo Jong floated the idea of announcing
the war's end as Moon wished, rebuilding a joint liaison office that North
Korea destroyed last year and holding an inter-Korean summit.
North Korea's already devastated economy has suffered further recent
setbacks from the coronavirus pandemic, which has decimated its external trade,
mostly with its last major ally, China. Kim Jong Un has said his country faces
the "worst-ever" crisis due to a combination of the pandemic, the sanctions and
natural disasters last year.
It's unclear if the Norths' outreach would provide it with badly needed
sanctions relief and other rewards. U.S. officials have repeatedly expressed
hopes to sit down for talks with North Korea, but have also made it clear they
will continue sanctions until the North takes concrete steps toward