At some point before their historic summit on April 27, the leaders of South and North Korea will talk on a new hotline to be established in the near future. The office of South Korean president Moon Jae-in confirmed the plans after working-level officials from each side held closed-door talks at the border this weekend on how to go about setting up the line of communication.
Seoul withheld the identities of the officials involved in the talks, which likely involved communications experts discussing how to prevent electronic eavesdropping, among other issues. Another meeting is planned for the days ahead.
Last year saw tensions rise sharply on the Korean peninsula as North Korea conducted a sixth nuclear test and numerous missile launches. With North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US president Donald Trump exchanging threats, many feared that a misunderstanding or minor incident could quickly escalate into a full-blown war. It was a similar fear during the Cold War that led the US in 1963 to set up a hotline to the Kremlin, routed via the Pentagon.
The hotline will reportedly be set up in Moon’s office in the Blue House, the South Korean equivalent of the US White House, and link to the secretariat at Kim’s office in the North. A previous hotline was established after the first summit between the two nations in 2000, but it was located in the intelligence agencies of each side.
It was yet another hotline, located at the border, that helped the two countries renew their communications this year. The line was used for the first time in nearly two years in January at the order of Kim. That followed him making a rare overture to the South in his New Year’s speech, and, in late November, declaring that his nation had “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”
Conservatives in South Korea meanwhile warned this weekend against any optimism generated by the recent meetings or the upcoming summit, arguing North Korea can’t be trusted. Hong Jun-pyo, chairman of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, wrote on social media yesterday, “We’ll see who is right in a couple of months.”