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The Diplomat – North Korea Issues Warning Over South Korea-US Joint Military Exercises

Shortly after the two Koreas restored communication channels, North Korea lambasted the upcoming exercises and stopped returning the South’s calls.

August 12, 2021
North Korea Issues Warning Over South Korea-US Joint Military Exercises

F-16 Fighting Falcons demonstrate an “Elephant Walk” as they taxi down a runway during an exercise at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, on March 2, 2012. Credit: DoD photo by Senior Airman Brittany Auld, U.S. Air Force.

Ever since the Korean War ended in a truce, the U.S. and South Korea have conducted joint military exercises to protect against a possible North Korean attack on the South’s territory. Even though the South’s military capability has been dramatically improved since the 1950s, the South Korean government never seriously considered the withdrawal of the U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, or conducting military exercises without them.

Since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office in 2017, however, Moon has tried to conduct scaled-down exercises to entice North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to engage in talks with him and the U.S. administration, with the hope of achieving denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. As a result, Seoul and Washington have conducted considerably smaller exercises in the past few years, but North Korea still recently released statements to criticize the exercises and the presence of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.

In the first inter-Korean summit in 2018, Kim told Moon that he understands that South Korea needs to conduct exercises with the U.S., according to news reports. Seoul and Washington agreed to conduct the exercises on a smaller scale due to negotiations with the North and, later, the COVID-19 pandemic; however, Pyongyang has now started harshly lambasting Seoul and Washington over the exercises.

“The dangerous war exercises pushed ahead with by the US and the south Korean side in defiance of our repeated warnings will surely make themselves face more serious security threat,” said Kim Yo Jong, sister of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in a statement released on Tuesday.

She also criticized the Biden administration by saying that the exercises prove “that ‘diplomatic engagement’ and ‘dialogue with no strings attached’ touted by the present US administration is hypocrisy to cover up its aggressive nature.”

A more surprising point in her statement is that she targeted the U.S. troops in South Korea directly as “the root cause” of tension on the Korean Peninsula. At the end of her statement, she implied that the statement was released “upon authorization,” which indicates that Kim Jong Un shares his sister’s stance.

Since Kim Yo Jong’s statement was published on Tuesday, some lawmakers in the ruling Democratic Party have argued that the government needs to reconsider holding the exercises, as the North recently showed its willingness to talk with the South by restoring the communication channels. However, former generals and lawmakers who had served in the military have strongly suggested that the government proceed with the exercises, saying that national security should come first. Seoul and Washington have repeatedly made clear that the exercises are purely defensive in nature with no hostile intent toward North Korea and have conducted rehearsals on Tuesday as planned.

With Seoul and Washington holding firm on the exercises, North Korea has not responded to hotline calls from the South, even though the two Koreas restored their communication channels two weeks ago. Experts predict that the North will not answer the South’s calls in the next few weeks. The full exercises are slated to open on August 16 and run through August 26.

Kim Yong Chol, department director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party, also released a statement on Wednesday to back up Kim Yo Jong’s statement. He said that “we will make them realize by the minute what a dangerous choice they made and what a serious security crisis they will face because of their wrong choice.”

Most experts say that the government needs to conduct joint military exercises to prepare for possible attack by the North. However, some experts argue that Seoul and Washington need to provide scenarios in which they can consider halting the exercises in return for the North’s moves toward denuclearization.

“The South Korean government is in a dilemma,” Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute think tank in South Korea, told The Diplomat. The Moon administration “requires South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises to counter North Korea’s nuclear capability escalation,” but must also “consider the North’s backlash.”

“In order to resolve the escalation of military tensions on the Korean Peninsula caused by North Korea’s backlash and warnings, South Korea and the U.S. need to declare that if North Korea actually freezes its nuclear programs, it can halt the exercises,” Cheong said. A North Korean nuclear freeze would include measures such as suspending further production of nuclear warheads, suspending the development of nuclear submarines, and accepting inspections of Yongbyon nuclear facilities.

Experts predict that the North would not fire intercontinental ballistic missiles or submarine-launched ballistic missiles during or after the exercises. That level of provocation would provide a critical reason for the U.S. not to consider lifting the devastating economic sanctions against the North. However, Seoul said it will keep tabs on the North’s moves.


Article: https://thediplomat.com/2021/08/north-korea-issues-warning-over-south-korea-us-joint-military-exercises/?utm_source=pocket_mylist

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Yonhap – N.K. refuses to answer calls from S. Korea in apparent protest against military exercise

By Choi Soo-hyang and Yi Wonju

SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Yonhap) — North Korea did not answer daily phone calls from South Korea via liaison and military hotlines on Tuesday afternoon, hours after the sister of the North’s leader Kim Jong-un blasted Seoul and Washington for going ahead with combined military exercises.

The inter-Korean communication lines — the liaison hotline and the military channels in the eastern and western border regions — were in normal operation until the morning but the afternoon calls went unanswered, officials said.

“The daily call via the inter-Korean liaison office at 5 p.m. did not take place,” a unification ministry official said, adding that they are closely monitoring the situation.

The disconnection, just two weeks after the lines were restored following a yearlong severance, came after Kim Yo-jong issued a statement expressing “deep regret” to South Korea for going ahead with the exercise with the United States despite her earlier warning the maneuvers will cloud inter-Korean relations.

“(The exercises) are the most vivid expression of the U.S. hostile policy towards the DPRK, … and an unwelcoming act of self-destruction for which a dear price should be paid,” she said in the statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. DPRK stands for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

This photo, provided by the defense ministry on July 27, 2021, shows a South Korean service member using the inter-Korean western military communication line. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This photo, provided by the defense ministry on July 27, 2021, shows a South Korean service member using the inter-Korean western military communication line. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

It was not immediately clear if the North has cut off the phone lines again.

“For now, it’s too early to say if the lines were completely severed,” the ministry official said. “We will try the call again tomorrow and see what happens before making any judgment.”

The phone lines were restored just late last month after President Moon Jae-in and the North’s leader Kim Jong-un agreed to improve their chilled ties amid little progress in nuclear negotiations.

The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae also said earlier in the day it will closely monitor the North’s moves instead of “jumping to conclusions at this point.”

A military officer said no unusual activities have been detected from the North as of now.

The North’s move came as South Korea and the U.S. began a preliminary four-day training Tuesday in the run-up to the main summertime drills scheduled for Aug. 16-26.

Whether and how to conduct the annual exercise drew keen attention, particularly after Kim Yo-jong warned that the drills would dampen the conciliatory mood created in the wake of the restoration of the communication lines.

Sources have said the South decided to go ahead with the exercise in a scaled-back manner, but Kim said it is still a “war rehearsal and preliminary nuclear war exercise” regardless of its scale or mode.

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Yonhap – No decision on military exercise with U.S.: defense ministry

By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, Aug. 5 (Yonhap) — The defense ministry reiterated Thursday that no decision has been made yet as to whether to go ahead with a planned military exercise with the United States despite North Korea’s warning that the drill will dampen the budding conciliatory mood between the two sides.

The warning from Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has divided South Korea in two. Those opposed to the exercise call for postponement so as not to disrupt the concilatory mood created after the North’s restoration of long-severed communication lines with the South, while supporters argue that calling off the drill would amount to giving in to pressure from Pyongyang.

On Thursday, the defense ministry said no decision has been made.

“The date, size or how to stage the drills have yet to be confirmed,” ministry spokesman Boo Seung-chan told a regular press briefing. “South Korea and the U.S. are in close consultations over the issue with various circumstances taken into consideration.”

On Thursday, President Moon Jae-in told Defense Minister Suh Wook to have “prudent” consultations with Washington over the exercise.

Pyongyang has long bristled at such combined drills, branding them as a rehearsal for invasion.

Calls to put off the annual summertime drills have also been growing inside the ruling Democratic Party, with about 60 lawmakers joining a signature campaign to postpone the drills on the condition that the two Koreas resume dialogue.

If the drills go ahead as planned, they are expected to be held in a scaled-back manner as the fourth wave of COVID-19 infections is showing no signs of a letup in South Korea.

The country reported 1,776 new infections Thursday, with the government mulling the extension of the toughest virus curbs currently imposed on the greater Seoul area.

No decision on military exercise with U.S.: defense ministry - 1
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Yonhap – Moon orders ‘prudent consultations’ with U.S. on planned defense drills

SEOUL, Aug. 4 (Yonhap) — President Moon Jae-in instructed South Korea’s defense chief Wednesday to have prudent consultations with the United States on whether to stage their joint military exercise this month as scheduled.

Moon was holding a rare Cheong Wa Dae meeting with top military commanders. Attendees included Defense Minister Suh Wook and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Won In-choul, as well as the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

In a report on the drills scheduled to kick off next week, Suh said that the military is in consultations with the U.S. and health authorities, with “realistic conditions” including the COVID-19 situation considered, a Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters.

The president ordered the minister to consult with them “with prudence in consideration of various elements,” the official added on the customary condition of anonymity.

President Moon Jae-in (2nd from L) speaks during a meeting with South Korea's top military leaders at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Aug. 4, 2021, in this photo provided by his office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

President Moon Jae-in (2nd from L) speaks during a meeting with South Korea’s top military leaders at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Aug. 4, 2021, in this photo provided by his office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Last week, the two Koreas restored their direct communication lines, raising hopes for the resumption of dialogue. Days later, however, the North pressed the South to cancel the annual military training with the ally. The joint drill could undermine the move to put inter-Korean ties back on track, Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister who is in charge of inter-Korean affairs as a senior Workers’ Party official, said in a statement.

A group of lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party (DP), meanwhile, is conducting a signature campaign demanding the postponement of the joint military exercise on the condition that inter-Korean dialogue takes place.

“So far, around 60 lawmakers have signed the petition as of this afternoon,” said Rep. Jin Sung-joon of the party. “The document urges the government to actively consider delaying the drill on the condition that the two Koreas engage in dialogue.”

Some lawmakers from other minor parties, including the Open Democratic Party and Justice Party, have also joined the move, Jin added.

During the meeting with the top military leaders, Moon pointed out that South Korea’s military has lost public trust due to some recent incidents, while it has contributed to regional peace and the fight against COVID-19.

He raised the need for the military to start afresh in efforts to regain the trust of the people.

The president, in particular, said that the mass coronavirus infections among the nation’s Cheonghae Unit members have caused great concern to the people.

Most of the 301 Cheonghae Unit sailors aboard a Navy destroyer on anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden have been infected with the virus. The government came under strong criticism, as they remained unvaccinated.

The defense minister reported to Moon that 93.6 percent of the nation’s total 550,000 soldiers have received at least a dose of COVID-19 vaccines, with the provision of second doses to be completed by Friday, Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Park Kyung-mee said in a press briefing.

Moon noted that the military can set a precedent for herd immunity and ordered the minister to make sure that the training manuals against heat waves can be properly executed.

In connection with the death in late May of a female Air Force officer, who suffered sexual violence from her male colleague, the minister briefed Moon on measures to prevent a similar incident from recurring.

Moon said that it was a “serious incident that shocked the public” and that there were a lot of problems in handling it, including false reporting and a cover-up.

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Yonhap – N. Korea answers S. Korea’s calls via radio hotline

By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Aug. 3 (Yonhap) — North Korea answered South Korea’s calls via a radio hotline on Tuesday for the first time since all fixed communication lines between the two sides were restored last week, officials said.

Last week, South and North Korea reopened all cross-border communication lines, including military hotlines, 13 months after Pyongyang cut them off in protest over anti-regime propaganda leaflets flying in from the South.

Though both of the two direct military communication lines — the western and eastern hotlines — operated normally, Pyongyang had not answered the South’s calls via radio links shared among international merchant ships, officials said.

“This morning, we again called the North at the designated time via the international merchant marine network hotline, and got an answer from the North,” a ministry official said.

The two sides are supposed to speak to each other via ship-to-ship radio link twice a day, the official said, adding the restoration of the hotline is expected to help prevent accidental clashes at sea, the official said.

The restoration of the radio hotline came after Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, warned Sunday that the future of inter-Korean relations will be clouded if an annual summertime exercise between the South and the United States goes ahead.

Seoul and Washington have usually staged their major combined exercises twice a year — around in March and August. Though the two countries say they are regular and defensive in nature, the North has branded them as a rehearsal for invasion.

The defense ministry has said that it is discussing details of the upcoming exercise with the U.S.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the North has not shown any unusual military moves.

“We are watching related moves in close coordination with the U.S. intelligence authorities and maintain a firm readiness posture,” JCS spokesperson Col. Kim Jun-rak said during a regular defense ministry briefing.

This photo, provided by the defense ministry on July 27, 2021, shows a South Korean service member using the inter-Korean western military communication line. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This photo, provided by the defense ministry on July 27, 2021, shows a South Korean service member using the inter-Korean western military communication line. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – Yongsan mayor proposes moving U.S. military hotel for park

SEOUL, Aug. 2 (Yonhap) — The mayor of Yongsan Ward said he has proposed moving a U.S. military hotel to a location outside the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan to make way for a new national park.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency last week, Mayor Sung Jang-hyun said he proposed the relocation of Dragon Hill Lodge from its current location inside the garrison to a site outside Yongsan but inside Seoul during a recent meeting with a central government official.

This file photo, provided by Yongsan Ward, shows Yongsan Mayor Sung Jang-hyun giving an interview to Yonhap News Agency at his office in Seoul on July 26, 2021. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This file photo, provided by Yongsan Ward, shows Yongsan Mayor Sung Jang-hyun giving an interview to Yonhap News Agency at his office in Seoul on July 26, 2021. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The U.S. military is in the process of returning the site of the Yongsan Garrison to the South Korean government after it relocated the headquarters of U.S. Forces Korea to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul.

The South Korean government plans to turn the site into a large national park named Yongsan Park.

“Keeping a U.S. military hotel in Yongsan Park that is inaccessible to ordinary citizens and tourists is not helpful to our two countries’ friendship, given the public sentiment here,” Sung said in the interview.

“I proposed an alternative site for the hotel in the city,” he said, declining to name the exact location at this stage, except to say that it is outside Yongsan Ward.

The mayor emphasized that the proposal was not simply an idea but a suggestion based on consultations with various concerned parties.

“A park should be a park,” he said. “I hope the government will review (the proposal) in a forward-looking manner in order to minimize the number of U.S. military facilities left behind in Yongsan Park.”

Dragon Hill Lodge is one of several facilities Seoul and Washington agreed to keep in Yongsan Garrison following the USFK’s relocation to Pyeongtaek.

Sung suggested the South Korean government build a new hotel for the U.S. military and in exchange receive ownership of the building housing Dragon Hill Lodge.

A similar exchange took place earlier when the U.S. government agreed to return a site north of Yongsan Park, which was reserved for the construction of U.S. Embassy personnel lodgings, in exchange for 150 apartment units there.

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Yonhap – DP chief insists joint military drills proceed as planned amid calls for suspension

SEOUL, Aug. 2 (Yonhap) — The head of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) on Monday urged South Korea and the United States to proceed with their annual summertime military exercise as planned, despite North Korea’s latest warning that the drills will complicate future inter-Korean ties.

On Sunday, Kim Yo-jong, the powerful sister of the North’s leader Kim Jong-un, issued a statement saying that the combined Seoul-Washington exercise could undermine efforts to improve inter-Korean relations at “such a crucial time,” after long-severed cross-border communication lines were restored last week.

The statement came as South Korea and the U.S. are expected to hold their annual summertime joint military exercise sometime this month.

In response to the latest Pyongyang statement, DP Chairman Rep. Song Young-gil insisted that the exercise should proceed as scheduled, stating that the nature of the exercise is centered on national defense and peace preservation.

“The upcoming exercise does not include field training elements and consists mainly of command center drills and computer simulation training,” Song said, downplaying concerns of military aggression toward the North.

Song Young-gil (C), leader of the ruling Democratic Party, speaks during a meeting of the party's supreme council members at the National Assembly in Seoul on Aug. 2, 2021. (Yonhap)

Song Young-gil (C), leader of the ruling Democratic Party, speaks during a meeting of the party’s supreme council members at the National Assembly in Seoul on Aug. 2, 2021. (Yonhap)

The DP chairman also underscored that the exercise was essential in testing the South Korean military’s Full Operational Capability (FOC), arguing that it is required in completing the envisioned transfer of the wartime operational control (OPCON) of the Korean troops from Washington to Seoul.

Song’s statement came amid voices raised within the DP calling for the exercise to be postponed, in light of ongoing efforts between Seoul and Washington to resume long-stalled talks with North Korea. Pyongyang has long bristled at such combined drills, branding them as a rehearsal for invasion.

Rep. Sul Hoon, a five-term lawmaker of the DP, proposed on social media that the allies delay the exercise, arguing that “a flexible response is required” to restore earnest talks with the North.

“South and North Korea have reopened communication lines for the first time in a year and have reactivated channels for dialogue,” Sul said, adding that the postponement of the exercise could serve as a platform to advance “inter-Korean and Pyongyang-Washington relations.”

Seoul’s unification ministry said Monday that South Korea will deal with the issue of joint military drills with the U.S. in a “wise and “flexible” manner so as to not heighten tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

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Yonhap – S. Korea is safer when it works closely with Japan: U.S. diplomat

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, July 28 (Yonhap) — South Korea and its people are safer when they work closely with Japan and the same holds true for both Japan and the United States, a senior U.S. diplomat said Wednesday.

Mark Lambert noted the countries still need to address their differences over history issues, but insisted they must still focus on areas where they can cooperate.

“The young people in Korea are safer and more secure and more likely to be prosperous if their country has a good relationship with Japan. The young people in Japan, the same. The young people in the United States, the same,” Lambert said in a conference in Washington, jointly hosted by the Korea Defense Veterans Association (KDVA) and Korea-U.S. Alliance Foundation.

“My country’s two strongest allies in Asia are Japan and the Republic of Korea, and my country is less secure when Japan, Republic of Korea are not cooperating,” he added, referring to South Korea by its official name. “I would argue that Japan and the Republic of Korea are less secure when they’re not cooperating, as well.”

Mark Lambert (second from L), former U.S. special envoy for North Korea who has been tapped to become deputy assistant secretary of state for Korea and Japan, speaks at a peace conference hosted by the Korea Defense Veterans Association and Korea-U.S. Alliance Foundation in Washington on July 28, 2021. (Yonhap)

Mark Lambert (second from L), former U.S. special envoy for North Korea who has been tapped to become deputy assistant secretary of state for Korea and Japan, speaks at a peace conference hosted by the Korea Defense Veterans Association and Korea-U.S. Alliance Foundation in Washington on July 28, 2021. (Yonhap)

Lambert has served as U.S. special envoy for North Korea, and is tapped to become deputy assistant secretary of state for Korea and Japan. He said he is already serving the “functions” of deputy assistant secretary but that he has yet to be officially appointed due to paper work.

Seoul-Tokyo relations have been at their lowest ebb since mid-2019 when Japan imposed a series of trade measures against South Korea in what many viewed as economic retaliation against Seoul court decisions in favor of Korean men and women forced into free labor or sexual slavery during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea.

Lambert said the countries should address such “atrocities,” but separate them from things they can cooperate on.

“It’s no secret that for many years, we have been working with Tokyo and Seoul to try to find common ground. And let’s be frank — history is not going to change. The atrocities of the 20th century are what they are,” he told the conference attended by some 100 people from South Korea and the U.S., including former South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan and retired Gen. Vincent Brooks, former chief of the U.S. Forces Korea, who currently heads the KDVA.

“I think our challenge as practitioners is to have those things (atrocities of the 20th century) in one basket, treat them accordingly, but also try to fill up another basket with things that bring the countries together in the 21st century,” added Lambert.

Lambert emphasized the importance of regional cooperation, such as U.S.-South Korea-Japan trilateral cooperation, partly to deal with what he called an authoritarian China.

“I think the important thing is there is going to be a growing number of multilateral bodies that are trying to stand up for democratic processes,” he said, adding, “The biggest challenge that my country faces right now is a hegemonic and authoritarian China.”

South Korea, however, is seen cautious as to not appear to be taking any one side between its oldest ally, the United States, and its largest trade partner, China.

Many also argue Seoul’s so-called “strategic ambiguity” may have been encouraged by China’s strong economic retaliation against South Korea in 2017 when Seoul agreed to host a U.S. anti-missile system, called THAAD, as well as what they call the U.S.’ failure to come to South Korea’s aid.

Lambert argued his country has always been there for South Korea and that it will continue to do so.

“So, for South Koreans who think that the United States either is not willing to stand up to China, I would question that, but also who say that the United States is not willing to support South Korea when it is punished by an angry China, I would question that as well,” he said. “I think we do stand shoulder to shoulder with our Korean allies.”

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Korea-US Alliance Foundation and Korea Defense Veterans Association Meet with Dr. Kurt Campbell, National Security Council

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(Yonhap Primer) Multiple communication channels in operation between two Koreas

By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, July 27 (Yonhap) — The reopening of communication lines between South and North Korea following a 13-month severance Tuesday drew attention to what liaison channels are in operation between the two sides that remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

The two sides have five direct phone lines, including a hotline between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, a set of military communication lines, and a liaison line between the South’s unification ministry and the North’s liaison office.

The other two are one between the spy agencies of the two sides — the South’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the North’s United Front Department — and a trial communication line set up at the border village of Panmunjom to check whether the other phone lines are operating well.

Last year, the North severed all but the spy agency line in anger over anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets sent across the border by South Korean activists and even blew up a joint liaison office built by the South in the North’s city of Kaesong.

On Tuesday, all four lines were restored under an agreement between Moon and Kim.

The unification ministry confirmed that the two sides had successful phone calls in the morning via two lines under its management — the Panmunjom line and the liaison line.

Even though the joint liaison office in the North’s Kaesong was blown up in June last year, the liaison communication line, which had been set up earlier that year, has remained in place without damage, a ministry official said.

This photo, provided by the unification ministry on July 27, 2021, shows a telephone for communication with North Korea at the Seoul bureau of their joint liaison office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This photo, provided by the unification ministry on July 27, 2021, shows a telephone for communication with North Korea at the Seoul bureau of their joint liaison office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The military communication line consists of two channels: one set up across the western border and the other across the eastern border. The militaries of the two sides hold regular telephone calls twice a day — at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. — to prevent accidental clashes.

The two sides had a successful phone call in the morning via the western line, but technical problems were found in the eastern line, the defense ministry said.

Ship-to-ship radio links between the two Koreas under the global merchant marine communication network are also operating normally, according to officials.

President Moon also has a phone on his desk that directly connects to the North’s highest governing body, the State Affairs Commission, though it appears to be serving only a symbolic role as of now.

The line was established in 2018 but is known to have remained silent except for an initial test call.

The two countries’ spy agencies also have a hotline, which was not mentioned by the North as one of the lines subject to the severance last year.

The communication channel between the National Intelligence Service and the North’s United Front Department was established following the first-ever inter-Korean summit between then President Kim Dae-jung and late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000.

It was not used when relations between Seoul and Pyongyang remained sour but was restored in 2018 amid a reconciliatory mood.

In September, NIS director Park Jie-won delivered North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s message of apology regarding its military’s killing of a South Korean fisheries official to Moon in a sign the channel has remained functional.

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