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North Korea telephone line may be reopened, Seoul says

By
Elizabeth Shim
South Korean soldiers stand guard at the joint security area of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone. South Korea has been reviewing the reopening of a line of communication with North Korea at the truce village. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
South Korean soldiers stand guard at the joint security area of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone. South Korea has been "reviewing" the reopening of a line of communication with North Korea at the truce village. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

May 17 (UPI) -- A telephone line to North Korea at the truce village of Panmunjom may be reopened, more than a year after it was shut down after the closing of a jointly operated factory park.

In an announcement reflecting a shift in South Korea's attitude to dealing with Pyongyang under President Moon Jae-in, Seoul's unification ministry said the channel of communication might be recovered to ease tensions with North Korea.

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Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng said "various internal reviews" have been conducted but a final decision on restarting the phone line at the Panmunjom liaison office has yet to be made, News 1 reported.

But Lee also said South Korean officials at Panmunjom have been "making phone calls on a daily basis to the North but the North has not responded."

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The spokesman said the goal of any conciliatory policy is to "peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear issue and continue to develop inter-Korea relations," while "cooperating with the international community."

North Korea-affiliated media have frequently called on the new South Korean administration to "pursue peace diplomacy" that would require, from Pyongyang's position, Seoul's disengagement with the United States.

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On Wednesday a pro-Pyongyang newspaper based in Japan urged Moon to forsake the security alliance with the United States.

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"Moon Jae-in expressed opposition against U.S. military actions against North Korea in the course of his campaign," the Choson Sinbo claimed in an editorial. "Now he must actively pursue diplomacy to make peace...the main target of peace diplomacy is the United States."

The paper also falsely claimed South Korean protesters were calling for the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye during their weekly "candlelight vigils" because of Park's conservative North Korea policy.

Protesters were rallying against Park's ties to a corruption scandal, and not against her responses to North Korea provocations or her commitment to the alliance with the United States.

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On Wednesday, Moon said he would never tolerate North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations, and called on military readiness of a "combined U.S.-South Korea defense posture" against North Korea to "suppress war," Newsis reported.

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