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North and South Korea restore military communication hotlines

North and South Korea have restored the military communication lines between the two countries that Pyongyang severed on 10 August following its criticism of joint US-South Korean military exercises.

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) in Seoul said in a statement that the East and West Sea hotlines were formally re-opened on 4 October at 09.00 h (local time), adding that all functions, including fax transmissions, have now been re-activated.

The MND also expressed hope that the restoration of the hotlines will help ease military tensions between the neighbouring countries, both of which have unveiled and tested in recent weeks a number of new missile systems, including ballistic and cruise missiles, raising fears of a potential arms race on the Korean Peninsula.

The military hotlines had been briefly restored on 27 July following an almost 13 month-long suspension but were severed again by Pyongyang on 10 August.

The Ministry of Unification in Seoul was quoted by the Yonhap News Agency as saying on 4 October that the latest restoration of the lines “lays the foundation” for bringing inter-Korean relations “back on track”, adding that Seoul hopes to swiftly resume dialogue and begin discussions on improving bilateral ties. The ministry also noted that the two sides agreed to hold regular phone calls via the liaison office twice a day at 09.00 h and 17.00 h (local time).

Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) had issued a similar statement earlier that day, citing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as saying that the move is part of efforts to “restore” North-South relations “as soon as possible” and establish “lasting peace” on the Korean Peninsula.

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