Why North Korea cut off all the communication lines with South Korea?
On Tuesday, North Korea has announced that it will axe all the communications with South Korea, including a hotline between the two nations. As per the officials, North Korea has decided to treat South Korea as an enemy. After five days of taking charge of relations with South Korea, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's younger sister Kim Yo Jong took the decision and this is the first in a series of actions.
In 2018, the North and South Korea have set up a liaison office located in the North Korean border to reduce the tensions between the two states. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the office was closed and the communication was made over the phone. However, as per the South Korean government, the officials tried to connect with the North Korean counterparts, but the phone went unanswered in the morning. The communication was made in the afternoon. It can be said that both the states are still at war as no peace agreement was made after the end of the Korean War in 1953.
Why North Korea cut off the communication lines?
North Korea has stated that it is suspending all the communications with South Korea as the activists of the South are routinely flying balloons over the border having propaganda leaflets. Kim Yo Jong has referred the North defectors who fled to South Korea as human scum and mongrel dogs. North Korea further stated that this is the first step in a series of other steps to cut all the contact with South Korea.
In addition to this, many experts are of the view that it is an attempt by North Korea to gain leverage in inter-Korean negotiations. After various high profile meetings in 2018, these negotiations were stalled. In 2013, North Korea did the same thing to get more concessions from South Korea.
South Korea's Response
In response to the present situation, South Korea has stated that it will try to restore peace with North Korea and requested that the hotlines must be restored back as they are the only means of communication between the two states in the times of pandemic. The Unification ministry recently announced that it will press charges against those who have been sending the propaganda balloons in North Korea.
What is a hotline?
A hotline is a point-to-point communication line. Through this line, calls are made automatically without dialling to the preselected destination. The hotlines are generally used to communicate in case of emergencies or for the communication between the heads of the government.
This is not the first time when the North axed the communications with the South. Previously, North Korea didn't answer the phone calls and faxes sent by South Korea but later restored the channels of communications when tensions eased. South has accused North many a time for deliberately creating tensions between the two states or to signal frustration over lack of progress in nuclear weapon talks with the US.
In 1971, the first hotline was opened between North and South Korea. Currently, both the Koreas have more than 49 hotlines for smooth communication. North Korea has deactivated the hotlines 7 times with South Korea. In February 2016, North Korea axed the communications with South Korea which were later restored on January 3, 2018.
To prevent any kind of misunderstandings between the two states, the hotlines are set up to arrange diplomatic talks between the heads of the states, military operations, air and sea traffic, economical issues, etc. Whenever North Korea cut off the communications with the South, bullhorns are used by the officials of South Korea to send messages across the borders.