North and South Korea exchanged messages Tuesday in communication channels that have been dormant for more than a year and agreed to improve ties—positive steps, but ones that still leave any resumption of stalled negotiations to rid the North of its nuclear weapons a long way off. Liaison officials from the Koreas had phone conversations via three channels, including a military hotline, and agreed to talk twice a day in two of them as they did in the past, Seoul officials said, per the AP. The rivals use the channels to lay out their positions on issues and even propose broader dialogue, and the links are also critical to preventing any accidental clashes along their disputed sea boundary. On Tuesday, the two Koreas announced their leaders—North Korea's Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in—have traded personal letters several times since April and decided in those exchanges to resume communication in the channels.
North Korea occasionally cuts off communication in the channels by not replying to South Korean phone calls or faxes. Moon's office said the two leaders agreed to "restore mutual confidence and develop their relationships again as soon as possible." The North's state media, for its part, said Kim and Moon agreed to "make a big stride in recovering the mutual trust." Some experts say North Korea is aiming for improved ties with South Korea in the hopes it will persuade the US to make concessions when its larger nuclear diplomacy with Washington eventually resumes. Those efforts have been stalled for more than two years amid wrangling over punishing US-led sanctions on the North. Tuesday’s resumption of communications comes on the 68th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the Korean War. That armistice has yet to be replaced with a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula in a technical state of war.
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