South Korea-North Korea Hotline Restored; Kim Jong Un Ready to Confront US?

Is Kim Jong Un getting ready to confront the US, which has been persuading North Korea to dismantle its nuclear arsenal?

The hotline between South Korea and North Korea has been restored. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have agreed to improve ties between the two countries. Following the agreement, inter-Korean communication channels were reopened at 10 am on July 27.

Seoul's presidential Blue House and North Korea's state media outlet KCNA have confirmed the news of the restoration of the hotline and stated that the countries will work toward rebuilding trust. The KCNA stated: "The top leaders of the north and the south agreed to make a big stride in recovering the mutual trust and promoting reconciliation by restoring the cut-off inter-Korean communication liaison lines."

Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae In
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In. Instagram

The hotline was severed in June 2020 and North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border. North Korea also threatened to increase its military strength along the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two countries.

Since then, several letters were exchanged between South Korean president Moon Jae In and North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un with regard to improving relations. Thus, after one year, the hotline has been restored. South Korea's Defence military stated that military hotlines were also back in operation.

Kim Jong Un Ready For Talks?

Analysts see this as Kim Jong Un's response to holding talks with the US. The hotline was cut in 2020 due to various developments following a failed summit in February 2019, where South Korea mediated between the U.S. and North Korea. Under former U.S. President Donald Trump, three summits were arranged but none led to an agreement in terms of North Korea dismantling its nuclear arsenal.

But after Joe Biden took office, the U.S. sent out a message that it was ready to meet North Korean leader "anywhere, anytime, without preconditions." But this offer made in June was rejected by Kim Yo Jong, sister of Kim Jong Un.

Since then, South Korea has been persistently trying to convince North Korea about holding talks with the U.S. Thus, Kim Jong Un's decision to restore hotline is being seen as an opportunity to arrange for one more round of talks between the U.S. and North Korea.

However, in June, Kim Jong Un had said that the country had the need to prepare for both dialogue and confrontation against Washington. His emphasis was more on confrontation rather than dialogue.

Seoul – Pyongyang Hotline

This is not the first time hotline between the two countries has been restored. Whenever relations between South Korea and North Korea sour, the first action taken by the latter is to sever the hotline. Reports state that whenever North Korea stops communicating with South Korea, the latter tries to call North Korea every day at the same time, even if the call goes unanswered.

The first hotline between the two countries was established in 1971. The newer systems were installed in 2009. The hotlines were severed in 1976, 1980, 1996, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2020. Reports claim that there are at least 49 hotlines between Seoul and Pyongyang. Most of the telephone lines run through Panmunjom Joint Security Area (JSA) within the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). These lines are maintained by the Red Cross.