North Korea Is Ghosting the South Weeks After Restoring Their Hotlines

The Koreas reconnected their direct phone lines last month. But that doesn’t mean they’re talking.

Aug 11 2021, 11:42am

North Korea has refused to answer calls from South Korea, after it warned its southern neighbor and the U.S. over their joint military drills this month.

Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister, of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, denounced on Tuesday the “dangerous war exercises” and accused the South of “perfidious behavior” after the governments restored inter-Korean hotlines last month, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

The South said its routine, twice-a-day calls over the hotlines started to go unanswered since Tuesday afternoon.

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The North agreed to reopen the hotlines only in late July, after it cut off communication with the South more than a year ago amid deteriorating ties.

Some had hoped that the resumption of regular check-ins would be a turning point in the two countries’ relationship, but the new mood got spoiled just two weeks later.

On Wednesday, Kim Yong Chol, another senior North Korean official, said his country would make the South “feel every moment what a dangerous choice they have made and what a terrible crisis of security they are approaching because of their wrong choice,” according to state media.

The South has called on the North to return to dialogue. U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the joint exercises are “purely defensive in nature” and the U.S. “harbors no hostile intent” toward the North.

But Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, a key ally of North Korea, said on Friday the exercises “are not constructive under the present circumstances.” 

“If the U.S. truly wants to restore dialogue with North Korea, it should not do anything whatsoever that creates tensions,” Wang said.

Go Myong-hyun, a North Korea expert at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, told VICE World News the North was using the hotlines as bargaining chips to pressure the South over the military drills.

Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said the North could sever more cooperations channels with the South, but any military actions are unlikely.

The regular military drills between the U.S. and South Korea are set to take place from August 16 to 26. Preliminary training for the drills began on Tuesday.

Follow Junhyup Kwon on Twitter.

Tagged:

Politics, South Korea, world politics, worldnews

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