YONHAP NEWS AGENCY
By Byun Duk-kun
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Expanding and maintaining channels of high-level dialogue between countries, especially in times of crises, is a key to ensuring security in the Northeast Asian region, including the Korean Peninsula, a transnational group of experts and leaders said Wednesday.
They also stressed the importance of promoting cooperation between the countries in areas such as disaster relief to build mutual trust.
“Numerous crisis mechanisms have been established in Northeast Asia over the past 25 years, including more than 30 hotlines between North and South Korea, but these are often cut when they are needed most, during periods of heightened tension,” they said in a set of policy recommendations published by the Seoul-based Asia-Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.
“States in the region should make a joint commitment to keep political and military communication channels open at all times: to make effective use of those that already exist and to establish new ones to help prevent misunderstandings and manage strategic competition,” said the list, signed by 36 officials and experts from countries including South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.
North Korea often cuts off its direct communication lines with South Korea to show its anger or dismay at Seoul.
Most recently, Pyongyang had restored its communication hotlines with Seoul in July after a 13-month suspension, only to cut them off again a few days later as a protest against South Korea’s regular joint military drills with the United States.
The experts recommended the countries work together on disaster relief that they said could help improve their disaster resilience but also their crisis communication.
“This type of cooperation would also help cultivate a sense of regionalism and common security,” they said.
They also called for efforts to expand what they called a “track 2” security dialogue.
“Convene informal discussions among security scholars and policy experts in Northeast Asian capitals on how to reduce the most pressing risks associated with arms racing and other competitive regional security dynamics. This forum could explore the relationship between regional and global security mechanisms and how to bolster them,” said the experts.
They also highlighted the need for a “track 1.5 dialogue” designed specifically to address the security issue on the Korean Peninsula, “which could revive discussions that took place during the Six Party Talks process in a more informal, less politically-charged setting.”
The recommendations come amid increasing tensions in the Northeast Asian region, partly caused by the growing rivalry between China and the U.S.
North Korea is also believed to be preparing to resume its nuclear and long-range ballistic missile testing following its 10 rounds of missile tests so far this year.
The North has maintained a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests since late 2017 but said in January it may restart all temporarily-suspended activities.
Seoul and Washington have repeatedly urged Pyongyang to engage in dialogue, but the North continues to ignore their overtures.
Denuclearization talks with North Korea have stalled since late 2019.