Koreas launch “Leader hotline” ahead of upcoming talks

Korean DMZ

The first ever telephone hotline to connect the leaders of North and South Korea has been launched amid preparations for a rare summit between the nations next week.

South Korea confirmed that a successful test call had been made between Seoul’s presidential Blue House and Pyongyang’s powerful State Affairs Commission and added that the telephone conversation between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would take place ahead of their face-to-face meeting.

“The historic direct telephone line between the leaders of the South and North was connected a short while ago,” South Korean presidential official Youn Kun Young said in a news briefing on Friday.

“The test call went on for 4 minutes and 19 seconds starting at 3:41pm. with (officials from) both sides speaking to each other … The connection was smooth and the voice quality was very good. It was like calling next door,” he added.

The leaders are due to meet next Friday at the border truce village of Panmunjom for talks aimed at resolving tensions between Pyongyang and Seoul. The meeting between Kim and Moon will only be the third summit between the rivals since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

A separate summit between Kim and President Donald Trump is anticipated in May or June.

The hotline will continue to operate after the summit to help facilitate ongoing dialogue, South Korea officials told AP.

In January North Korea reopened a border hotline between the countries after nearly two years of radio silence. It came as tensions between the two nations eased ahead of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Senior delegations from both sides have held meetings prior to the Korean leaders’ summit, sparking speculation from local media sources that the historic occasion may mark an official end to the war.