Seoul, Aug 3 (EFE).- The recent restoration of direct communication hotlines between the two Koreas was initiated at the request of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the South Korean intelligence agency told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday.
It was Kim who first requested restarting phone communication between the two countries, South Korean lawmakers Kim Byung-kee and Ha Tae-keung said in a press conference after receiving the information from intelligence officials during a session of the parliament’s intelligence committee.
On Jul. 27, it was announced that Pyongyang had agreed to resume phone communication with Seoul, 13 months after snapping the hotlines in protest against South Korean activists dropping propaganda leaflets against the regime in its territory using balloons.
“South and North Korea are regularly talking on the phone twice every day,” the National Intelligence Service was quoted as saying by the lawmakers during the press briefing, according to local news agency Yonhap.
The NIS also said that the initiative by Pyongyang showed that the regime expects Seoul to play a role in “reviving North Korea-United States relations,” which have hit a deadlock since 2019 after a failed dialog on denuclearization.
The agency added that the North had demanded exemption from sanctions banning its mineral exports as well as import of refined petroleum products and other essentials as a pre-requisite for coming back to the dialog table with Washington.
The North’s decision to reopen dialog with Seoul, with which it technically remains at war, has come at a time when it is facing its biggest economic crisis in two decades due to a complete shutdown of borders to prevent Covid-19 outbreaks.
The measure has further weakened an economy already severely hit by sanctions.
The NIS also said that a recent warning by Pyongyang over the weekend over upcoming joint military exercises between Seoul and Washington, set to be held later this month, seems to indicate that the regime may be willing to advance inter-Korean ties in exchange for the drills being suspended.
The agency brushed off speculation about Kim having health problems, after last week North Korean media released photos of the leader wearing medical tape on the back of his head, while a mark or scar of unknown origin was spotted on the same spot a few days later. EFE