DPRK-ROK aviation hotline restored

According to the New York Times:

North and South Korea reopened one of the three severed hot lines between them on Monday in response to a request from the North, its first apparent outreach since the youngest son of the leader, Kim Jong-il, was unveiled as his successor.

The reopened hot line connects the principal international airports — Pyongyang in the North and Incheon in the South — and a test call was conducted late Monday morning, the Unification Ministry said through a spokesman in Seoul.

Another government official here said Monday that North Korea had approached the South about reopening the hot line, which was severed in May following the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, in March.

Relations between the Koreas have been badly strained since the Cheonan sinking, which killed 46 sailors. The South has blamed the incident on a North Korean torpedo attack; the North has denied any involvement.

It was not immediately clear whether the renewal of the airspace hot line was an authentic diplomatic entreaty from the North or merely a matter of practicalities. Analysts continue to look for signs of a possibly new foreign policy approach from the North now that Kim Jong-un, Mr. Kim’s Western-educated son, has been given powerful posts in the military and the Workers’ Party.

Commercial aircraft using South Korean airports were still avoiding North Korean airspace, said Lee Jong-joo, an official with the Unification Ministry, adding that the South Korean government was still considering whether to remove that ban.

In May, the nuclear-armed North severed all three hot lines that connect the countries, which remain in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, and a formal peace treaty remains elusive.

The principal hot line is located at Panmunjom, the so-called truce village on the highly militarized border. A South Korean government official on Monday described that link as “kind of the official one, used for all official messages.” The official said the North had “unilaterally shut down” that line in May and has not indicated if or when it might reopen.

The North also closed down a naval hot line intended to prevent clashes near its disputed sea border with the South. That link, which remains closed, was established in 2004 after deadly naval skirmishes in 1999 and 2002.

With the hot lines closed, communications between the two governments have been basically conducted through their jointly operated industrial park in Kaesong, located inside North Korea. The South Korean government does not have an official office at Kaesong, but diplomatic messages are routinely passed there.

This story does not explain what two naval centers are connected by the inter-Korean naval hotline. If a reader is aware what organizations are connected, I would appreciate knowing so I can map the hotline on Google Earth.

Read the full story here:
North and South Korea Restore Aviation Hotline
New York Times
Mark McDonald


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