The two Koreas connected and tested a cross-border telephone hotline on Friday afternoon linking the offices of the two states’ leaders.
South Korea’s presidential office said a successful test call was made on the hotline between the presidential Blue House in Seoul and the powerful State Affairs Commission in Pyongyang.
The two national leaders, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, are expected to hold their first-ever discussion over the line, prior to their eagerly anticipated summit next Friday.
Amid a wind of détente blowing across the peninsula following Kim’s conciliatory New Year’s Day broadcast, cross-border telephone connections in the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjeom were re-activated in January. North Korea had previously cut those links in 2016 during inter-Korean tensions.
While cross-border telephone cables were laid in the 1970s, the direct hotline is the first such to connect the heads of the competing states since the establishment of two governments on the peninsula in 1948. As such, it could prove a critical communications tool in periods of tension.
The line connects Moon’s office in the presidential Blue House – a mansion set behind a medieval palace and back-dropped by a scenic mountain in central Seoul – with Kim’s State Affairs Commission, a Blue House official confirmed.
However, the official declined to say whether the line was wired or wireless, or give the actual location of the commission, citing security concerns. In the opaque world that is North Korea, the leader’s residence is not public knowledge.
Korean summit next Friday
The hotline announcement is just the latest in a series of fast-paced developments that have shifted the situation on the peninsula from a state of soaring military tensions at the end of last year, to high expectations for a new era today. Central to those hopes are next week’s inter-Korean summit, and the North Korea-US summit scheduled for late May or early June.
The agenda of next week’s summit is still unknown, but will almost certainly include processes leading to North Korean denuclearization and a peace treaty to end the Korean War.
Most critically, the April 27 summit will help lay the foundation for the historic meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump – a first for North Korea-US relations.
The location for that summit has not yet been disclosed, and may not have been agreed on yet.
It was confirmed earlier this week that key Trump confidante Mike Pompeo, then the head of the CIA and now going through confirmation hearings to become Secretary of State, secretly traveled to Pyongyang and met with Kim over the Easter Weekend on a summit-preparation mission.