Link between Incheon and Pyongyang restored

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Link between Incheon and Pyongyang restored

Phone lines between airports in Pyongyang and Incheon were reopened yesterday, showing yet another sign of improving inter-Korean relations.

The South Korean Unification Ministry said yesterday that Pyongyang had sent a notice via communication lines in Kaesong on Saturday that it would reopen the telephone link. Yesterday morning, the two airports executed a trial call.

Phone communication between the airports was angrily stopped by North Korea in May, a day after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made a speech calling for punitive action against Pyongyang, which he accused of sinking the Cheonan in March. (North Korea denies it.)

After North Korea cut off landline communications, Incheon Airport’s Area Control Center relied on satellite communications to inform the North of any civil aircraft heading its way.

The restoration of communications will benefit foreign airlines that enter North Korean airspace. Since May, South Korean aircraft have not entered North Korean airspace for safety reasons. “There were no major difficulties [with the landlines down] but there were technical discomforts,” said a source. A South Korean government official added that the opening of the communications line does not imply that the aerial territory over North Korea is safe.

The Unification Ministry said North Korea’s notice over the weekend does not mean that South Korean civil aircraft will be flying over North Korean territory anytime soon.

“The notice mentioned nothing on sovereign aerial domains,” Unification Ministry spokesperson Chun Hae-sung said yesterday. The reopened line is seen as another move from North Korea to unfreeze relations. Continued friendly gestures from North Korea could lead to a possible summit meeting between the North and South in the near future, analysts say.

By Christine Kim []
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