After a long diplomatic silence, North Korea reopened direct communication links with South Korea on Tuesday.

According to both states, the connections were switched on at 10 a.m. local time and later tested with a first cross-border telephone call.

North Korea cut the connection in June 2020.

The commissioning suggests that North Korea may open talks with the United States.

Patrick Welter

Correspondent for business and politics in Japan, based in Tokyo.

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The governments of North and South Korea praised the agreement in similar-sounding formulations. Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in have made a big step towards restoring mutual trust, it said from the north. South Korea's presidential office spoke of an agreement between the two leaders to advance inter-Korean relations as quickly as possible. According to the South, Moon and Kim had exchanged letters repeatedly since April to revive relations. Nothing was known about the content. The reopening of communications happened on the 68th anniversary of the armistice agreement, which ended the fighting in the Korean War in 1953.

North Korea shut down telephone and fax lines between the military on both sides 13 months ago. One reason for this was the annoyance in Pyongyang that South Korea did not prevent human rights activists from sending out flyers against the Kim regime in balloons across the border to the north. A few days later, in June 2020, North Korea blew up the liaison office of both states in the border town of Kaesong. South Korea then tried unsuccessfully to restart talks with the north. Moon offered economic aid and support against the coronavirus, but encountered an icy silence in the north. In order to accommodate Pyongyang, the government of Moon even enforced, amid violent protests in democratic and liberal South Korea, that sending leaflets to North Korea was a criminal offense.But the north let Moon continue to accrue.

The diplomatic rejection goes back further.

In February 2019, a second meeting between then American President Donald Trump and Kim about nuclear disarmament in the north ended in Hanoi, Vietnam.

South Korea, which had initiated contact with, had already lost its role as a door opener for the North Korean regime.

Does Kim Jong-un want to influence the election in South Korea?

For Moon, who will be leaving the presidency in Seoul after five years on a rotating basis, a resumption of talks and possible agreements with Pyongyang would offer the opportunity to end his presidency, which was recently rather lackluster in the coronavirus turmoil, with a success. The Bank of Korea reported on Tuesday for the period from March to June a preliminary growth rate of 0.7 percent compared to the previous quarter. That was the fourth consecutive quarter of growth after South Korea fell into recession at the start of the corona pandemic. But since June, with the advance of the delta variant of the coronavirus, the country has experienced a wave of infections, stronger than ever before. It turns out that the government did not get vaccines against the virus fast enough in the past year.That puts a strain on the prospects of the future presidential candidate of his Democratic Party.

The motive of the North Korean dictator Kims for reactivating the communication links is less clear. Observers had justified the long silence and the aggressive rhetoric against the South and the United States with the fact that Kim was waiting for advances from the government of Joe Biden. By Tuesday, Kim had rejected offers of diplomatic talks from Seoul and Washington. In June, at a plenary session of the Labor Party, he declared that North Korea should be open to dialogue and confrontation.

The current signal may indicate that Kim urgently needs help after largely economically sealing off the country to protect against the coronavirus. Some observers also speculate that Kim wants to influence the upcoming presidential election campaign in South Korea. In the next few weeks, the United States and South Korea are planning joint military maneuvers that could become a test case for Kim's willingness to talk.

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