S. Korea calls for reopening inter-Korean communication channel

SEOUL-- South Korea's unification ministry on Wednesday expressed a need to reopen an inter-Korean communication hotline, which was severed early last year following North Korea's nuclear and missile tests.

In February 2016, North Korea cut off two inter-Korean communication channels as it expelled remaining South Koreans from a joint industrial park in response to South Korea's closure of the Kaesong complex.

One of them is a hotline at a liaison office located at the truce village of Panmunjom, which was set up in 1971. It had been periodically disconnected when inter-Korean ties seriously worsened.

Technically speaking, the communication lines are not physically cut, but the dialogue channel is not operating as North Korea has not responded to South Korean officials' daily contact over the phone.

"The government has kept the stance that the inter-Korean dialogue channel should be reopened. The ministry has been reviewing ways to restore it," Lee Duk-haeng, ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing. "But there are no specific steps in the offing."

Liberal President Moon Jae-in took office last week with pledges to seek a dual-track approach to push for North Korea's denuclearization and dialogue with it.

North Korea's nuclear and missile tests prompted the rival Koreas to suspend inter-Korean dialogue.

North Korea called on South Korea to honor and fully implement previous inter-Korean agreements on cooperation and reconciliation.

The ministry said it did not see the call as a sign for dialogue as it is not logical for Pyongyang to make such a request while testing a new intermediate-range ballistic missile.

Lee also called on North Korea to heed the international community's call for ending provocations as Pyongyang claimed that its latest missile test is to help ensure safety and security on the divided peninsula.

"North Korea should pay attention to its call and have clear understanding about what the problem is," the spokesman said.

North Korea said Tuesday it will continue to conduct nuclear or missile tests with smaller and more diversified nuclear weapons, hinting at further conducting provocative acts.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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