Seoul, Pyongyang set up direct Moon-Kim hotline

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Seoul, April 20 (IANS) Seoul and Pyongyang on Friday set up a telephone line between their leaders, enabling direct dialogue between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un who are also set to meet in person next week.

The direct hotline was established between Seoul’s Presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and the office of North Korea’s State Affairs Commission, headed by Kim, Yonhap news reported.

South Korea made the first call to check the line, a Cheong Wa Dae official said, adding that there were no problems detected.

North Korea later returned the call to check the channel worked both ways. The entire trial conversation lasted four minutes and 17 seconds, according to the official.

Cheong Wa Dae officials said direct communication between the countries’ leaders may help further ease tension on the Korean Peninsula, noting that many cross-border conflicts between them in the past may have partly been caused by “misunderstanding”.

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The telephone that links Moon with Kim sits right on the former’s desk, an official said.

The agreement on a new hotline, the first of its kind connecting the leaders of the two Koreas, came in early March when Moon’s top security adviser Chung Eui-yong travelled to Pyongyang for an unprecedented meeting with the North Korean leader.

There, Kim agreed to hold a bilateral summit with the South Korean President as well as US President Donald Trump.

South Korea earlier said Moon and Kim were likely to hold a telephone conversation before they meet on April 27. Their meeting is expected to be followed by the first-ever US-North Korea summit in May or early June.

The upcoming inter-Korean summit will be the third of its kind after two summits held in 2000 and 2007. It will be held on the South Korean side of the joint security area inside the heavily-fortified demilitarised zone that divides the two Koreas. This meeting makes Kim the first North Korean leader to step on South Korean soil since the end of the Korean War.

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–IANS

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