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N Korea at crossroads

South and North Korea restore hotlines as leaders seek to rebuild ties

Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un reopen channel that was severed in June 2020

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their  news conference in Pyongyang in September 2018.   © KCNA/Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) -- South and North Korea have restored their once-severed hotlines as part of efforts by the two countries' leaders to rebuild strained ties, Seoul's presidential Blue House said on Tuesday.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have exchanged multiple letters since April and agreed to reconnect the hotlines, said Moon's press secretary, Park Soo-hyun.

North Korea's state media outlet, KCNA, also said all inter-Korean communication channels were resumed operation at 10 a.m. Tuesday in line with an agreement between Moon and Kim.

"The two leaders have explored ways to recover relations by exchanging letters on several occasions, and agreed to restore severed hotlines as a first step for that process," Park said in a statement. "They have also agreed to regain trust as soon as possible and foster progress on relations again."

KCNA touted the reopening of the hotlines as "a big stride in recovering the mutual trust and promoting reconciliation."

North Korea cut the hotlines in June 2020 as cross-border ties soured after a failed second summit in February 2019 between Kim and former U.S. President Donald Trump, which Moon had offered to mediate.

Moon has called for a revival of the hotline and talks, pinning high hopes on U.S. President Joe Biden to restart negotiations aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

The announcement came as the two Koreas marked the 68th anniversary of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. Kim paid tribute to fallen soldiers and sent gifts to surviving veterans, according to KCNA.

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