North and South Korea reopen communication in bid to mend ties

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The two Koreas on Monday restored their hotlines that the North severed months ago, with Pyongyang urging Seoul to step up efforts to improve relations after criticising what it called double standards over weapons development.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed his willingness last week to reactivate the hotlines, which North Korea cut off in early August in protest against joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises, just days after reopening them for the first time in a year.

Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency had said the telephone links would be reconnected on Monday at 9:00 a.m. (0000 GMT).

The South confirmed that twice-daily regular communication was restarted on time via military hotlines and others run by the Unification Ministry, except for the navy channel set up on an international network for merchant ships.

The hotlines are a rare tool to bridge the rivals, but it was unclear whether their reconnection would facilitate any meaningful return to talks aimed at dismantling the North’s nuclear and missile programmes in return for U.S. sanctions relief.

KCNA called for Seoul to fulfil its “tasks” to mend strained cross-border ties, repeating Kim’s speech last week that he had decided to recover the lines to help realise people’s hopes for a thaw and peace.

In that speech, Kim urged South Korea to abandon its “double standards” and “delusion” over the North’s self-defensive military activities while developing its own weapons.

“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 prioritised to open up the bright prospect in the future,” KCNA said.