North Korea has announced it will restore severed inter-Korean hotlines starting Monday, but urged South Korea to step up efforts to improve relations, Reuters reported on Sunday citing state media KCNA.
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-US military exercises, just days after reopening them for the first time in a year.
The official KCNA news agency said the lines will be reconnected on Monday at 9:00 a.m. local time, but also called for Seoul to fulfil its “tasks” to recover strained cross-border ties.
South Korea's unification ministry later confirmed that the hotlines were restored and that officials from both Koreas exchanged their first phone call since August.
"With the restoration of the South-North communication line, the government evaluates that a foundation for recovering inter-Korean relations has been provided," the ministry said in a statement quoted by the BBC.
Kim said in his comments last week that the decision to reactivate the lines is to help "realize the expectations and desire of the entire Korean nation" for recovery and durable peace in cross-border relations.
At the same time, Kim took a tougher tone toward Washington, accusing President Joe Biden's new administration of "employing more cunning ways and methods" in pursuing military threats and a hostile policy towards North Korea, while still offering talks.
"The US is touting 'diplomatic engagement' and 'dialogue without preconditions' but it is no more than a petty trick for deceiving the international community and hiding its hostile acts and an extension of the hostile policy pursued by the successive US administrations," Kim charged.
Former US President Donald Trump tried to reach an agreement with North Korea while in office. Kim and Trump met in Hanoi in 2019 for a summit that left nuclear talks at a standstill.
The pair had met three times since June 2018 but made little progress towards denuclearization.
The new Biden administration reached out to North Korea but the country did not respond to those overtures.
In Biden’s first policy speech to Congress, he said nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran posed threats that would be addressed through “diplomacy and stern deterrence”.
Responding to that speech, North Korea dismissed the idea of talks with Washington, saying Biden’s speech was “intolerable” and “a big blunder."