Following the one-hour meeting at the Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine office, the two sides decided to restore the communication line in the West Sea first before reconnecting a similar one in the East Sea.
Reconnecting the military communication line is a step to reduce military tensions in the cross-border region, a pledge that the two Koreas’ leaders agreed on during their summit in April at the truce village of Panmunjeom.
“In order to implement the Panmunjeom Declaration on military issues, the two sides agreed that restoring military communication lines is urgent,” said the Ministry of National Defense said in a statement.
The closed-door meeting was attended by six representatives each from the two Koreas. The South Korean delegates were led by Army Col. Cho Yong-geun, who deals with North Korean issues at the Ministry of National Defense. Cho’s counterpart was Col. Om Chang-nam.
The announcement came after the two Koreas agreed to hold a series of inter-Korean talks on cross-border projects aimed at reconnecting the inter-Korean railways and reforestation of North Korea.
According to the Unification Ministry, the railway talks were set to take place Tuesday at Peace House, a South Korean building inside Panmunjeom. A separate meeting on reconnecting roads was scheduled for Thursday at Tongilgak, a North Korean building opposite Peace House.
An inter-Korean meeting on forestry cooperation is to take place Wednesday, but its venue has not been decided yet. The government said the reforestation initiative is one of the few projects that the two Koreas can jointly pursue without violating economic sanctions on the North.
“Through the sub-committee meetings on railways, roads and forestry cooperation, we will faithfully discuss ways to implement the Panmunjeom Declaration to lay the groundwork for the sustainable development of inter-Korean relations,” the Unification Ministry said.
Monday’s inter-Korean military talks, the first colonel-level meeting in more than seven years, came about a week after general-level military talks, where the two Koreas agreed to fully restore military communication lines in the East and West Sea.
The western communication line was established in 2002 and the eastern one the following year. Both were established during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, which supported an engagement policy with North Korea.
The communication lines were then suspended during the conservative Lee Myung-bak and Park Guen-hye administrations -- both of which denounced the engagement policy with North Korea and called for a hawkish approach toward Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
The western line was cut off in 2016 following the Park administration’s shutdown of the Kaesong industrial park, until it was restored in January ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The eastern line was blocked in 2011 and then completely severed due to a wildfire in 2013.
The series of cross-border meetings is part of efforts to fulfill the Panmunjeom Declaration adopted after the inter-Korean summit in April, when South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un proclaimed “there is no more war on the Korean Peninsula.”
The joint declaration calls for the two Koreas to completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air and sea. In that vein, the two sides pledged to transform the Demilitarized Zone and waters close to North Korea into a “peace zone.”
By Yeo Jun-suk(firstname.lastname@example.org)