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Opening a red phone between leaders of the two Koreas

Ⓒ YONHAP/AFP – YONHAP – | A red phone between the two Koreas is presented in
Seoul on April 20, 2018

The two Koreas on Friday opened a red phone between their
leaders, a week away from a summit between South Korean
President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in
the demilitarized zone that divides the peninsula.

This line connects the Blue House – the South Korean
presidency in Seoul – and the office in Pyongyang of the North
Korean State Affairs Commission, chaired by Mr. Kim, one of his
most important functions.

“The historic connection between the leaders of the two
Koreas has just been established,” said Yoon Kun-young, senior
official of the Blue House. A test conversation between
officials lasted four minutes and 19 seconds.

“The connection is good, it’s like talking to a neighbor,”
he added.

The peninsula has been divided for 70 years. Since the end
of the Korean War (1950-53), no telephone or postal
communication is allowed between ordinary citizens.

This line will allow MM. Kim and Moon to speak directly to
each other is the latest illustration of the diplomatic ferment
that has taken hold of the region since the Winter Olympics in
the South.

The leaders of the two Koreas will meet next Friday on the
south side of the DMZ. It will be the third summit only since
the end of the war.

– “Blessing” –

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Ed JONES – | A South Korean soldier stands guard on March 18, 2018,
in front of a door leading to North Korea inside a meeting room
of the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission
(UNCMAC) in Panmunjom.

This ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, so
that both sides are still technically in conflict.

Moon said on Thursday that he wants the end of the war
officially declared as a prelude to the conclusion of a
treaty.

President Trump, who must himself hold a historic
face-to-face meeting with Kim, said he was giving his
“blessing” to both parties to negotiate such an agreement.

But everything will depend on the North Korean ballistic and
nuclear programs.

The North, which fired last year intercontinental ballistic
missiles capable of reaching the continental United States and
conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date, said
long-time need the atomic weapon to protect themselves of an
American invasion.

Pyongyang has since offered to negotiate on the subject in
exchange for guarantees for its security. But the formula
sometimes used, “denuclearization of the peninsula”, actually
means the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea and the end
of the protection offered by the US nuclear umbrella to the
South Korean ally.

Which is unthinkable in Washington. The United States
insists that they want the total, verifiable and irreversible
denuclearization of North Korea.

Ⓒ AFP – Ed JONES – | A South Korean soldier stands guard in Paju on March
18, 2018 in front of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two
Koreas.

Mr. Trump has just warned that the summit with the North
could still be canceled.

– “New stage” –

“If I think that this meeting will not be fruitful, we will
not go in. If the meeting, when I will be there, is not
fruitful, I will leave it respectfully,” said the US
president.

Moon explained that the North has testified to its
“readiness for total denuclearization” without demanding the
withdrawal of US troops.

“They only talk about security guarantees,” he said, adding
that the “devil was in the details.” “It is too early to
guarantee the success of the dialogue” that can only take place
“after a successful US / North Korean summit,” he warned.

Pyongyang, for its part, showed restraint on all these
topics, only mentioning last week its contacts with the United
States.

Nevertheless, the official KCNA agency has largely abstained
for more than a month to discuss the nuclear capabilities of
North Korea.

The Workers’ Party, the only ruling party, met in plenary on
Friday to discuss a “new stage” in an “important historical
period of the Korean revolution in development”.

Observers believe it is unlikely,
however, that clear directives on possible policy changes will
be issued on this occasion.

The red phone installed on Friday is not the only connection
between North and South. A military communication line was put
back into service in January after two years of silence.

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