In a surprise announcement, North and South Korea said Tuesday that they had restored previously severed cross-border communications, a move that could bolster prospects for stalled nuclear diplomacy.
The development comes more than a year after Pyongyang blew up ties — and an inter-Korean building that had been symbolic of the relationship.
The two Koreas, which remain technically in a state of war, said that the decision to restore links had come after a series of personal letters were exchanged by their leaders, starting in April, in an attempt to shore up ties.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said in a statement that the two sides had reopened all inter-Korean communication lines as of 10 a.m. Tuesday.
“The top leaders of the north and the south agreed to make a big stride in recovering the mutual trust and promoting reconciliation by restoring the cutoff inter-Korean communication liaison lines through the recent several exchanges of personal letters,” the agency said.
“The restoration of the communication liaison lines will have positive effects on the improvement and development of the north-south relations,” it added.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office also noted that the two sides had exchanged personal letters, and characterized the moves as a first step toward improving ties.
Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have held three summits, though inter-Korean relations were essentially cut off in June last year after the North unilaterally ended all official military and political communication links with the South.
The North Korean regime had cited Seoul’s alleged failure to crack down on activists who had used balloons to float anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.