By Trump's last year in office it seemed whatever positive rapport and communications window he had built up with North Korea's Kim Jong Un was being lost as momentum toward potential nuclear talks stalled and ground to a halt.
And as yet there's been no signs of movement toward any sort of opening under the Biden administration, however, on Tuesday a fresh development may suggest a breakthrough could be on the horizon as the North and South's leaders have exchanged letters pledging they will "restore relations".
Strongly suggesting the letters contain more than just surface rhetoric and vague promises, it's also being reported that the sides have reopened military hotlines after a year ago Kim detonated a liaison office meant to symbolize the direct communications. The hotline had been established in 2018 as part of efforts at preventing the outbreak of war based on potential 'misunderstandings'.
As Bloomberg summarizes, North Korean state media is confirming major efforts at "recovering mutual trust" underway:
The two Koreas released what appeared to be coordinated statements Tuesday calling for reconciliation on the peninsula, with state media in Pyongyang saying that they agreed "to make a big stride in recovering the mutual trust."
The effort to thaw relations came on the 68th anniversary of the armistice that ended fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War, a conflict that has never formally stopped. Last week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman reaffirmed President Joe Biden’s openness to talks during a visit to Seoul in which she met with South Korean officials, including Moon.
Moon's office has said that letters have been exchanged with Kim since April as part of efforts to revive the positive atmosphere of the prior unprecedented Trump-Kim summits.
"South Korea’s military also said it planned later Tuesday to restore its regular communications with northern forces," Bloomberg continued in its reporting. "They’ll exchange information twice a day, at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., including details about illegal fishing in the Yellow Sea, the South Korean military said in a statement."
North Korea confirms hotline restoration and exchange of letters between Kim and Moon:— William Gallo (@GalloVOA) July 27, 2021
Calls developments a "big stride in recovering the mutual trust and promoting reconciliation." pic.twitter.com/DhKwiII2GP
State-run KCNA broadcast Tuesday that "The whole Korean nation desires to see the north-south relations recovered from setback and stagnation as early as possible."
The last short-lived 'high point' in Moon-Kim relations was in the April 2018 historic meeting at Panmunjom on the border, when before cameras the two leaders briefly walked across the border, each into the other's country, and held "frank talks" over denuclearization. At the time they signed a pledge affirming a path toward denuclearization of the peninsula - but all of this would ultimately prove brief and merely symbolic, not developing into anything concrete.
The past couple years have seen a return to the type of trading of barbs, warnings and insults commonplace during much of the past official six decades of the 'state of war' between the two.