North and South Korea Reopen Communication Lines After a Tense 14 Months

SEOUL — North and South Korea on Tuesday reopened ​military and other diplomatic communication hotlines after a hiatus of nearly 14 months, as the North said it wanted to improve ties “as early as possible” amid a deepening economic crisis.

The decision to restore the links was brokered in a series of letters exchanged since April between President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, ​both countries’ governments said on Tuesday. The pair chose to reopen communications on a symbolic day: ​the anniversary of the truce that effectively ended the Korean War in 1953.

The North cut off all communications with South Korea in June of last year, saying that it had no need to continue to communicate with a country it deemed an “enemy.” It has since refused to pick up the phone when South Korean officials made routine daily calls on the military and other inter-Korean hotlines. ​

Days after communications were cut off, relations reached their lowest point in recent years when the North bombed an inter-Korean joint liaison office in the North Korean town of Kaesong near the border, where officials from both sides had maintained offices.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, duty officials from the two countries stationed at Panmunjom, a ​so-called truce ​village that straddles the​ inter-Korean​ border, spoke on the phone, the South Korean government said. ​Separately, the South’s military said it had reopened direct telephone and fax lines with the North’s Korean People’s Army.

“We expect the restoration of the South-North communications lines to make positive contributions to improving and developing bilateral relations,” ​said Mr. Moon’s spokesman, Park Soo-hyun.

​Reporting the same announcement, the North’s​ official Korean Central News Agency ​said that “the whole Korean nation desires to see the North-South relations recovered from setback and stagnation as early as possible​.”

Ties between the countries boomed in 2018 when Mr. Moon and Mr. Kim met three times, ushering in a rare détente on the Korean Peninsula that replaced years of tensions stoked by North Korea’s nuclear and long-range missile tests. But relations soon soured after Mr. Kim’s ​second ​summit meeting with former President Donald J. Trump ended ​in Hanoi, Vietnam, ​in early 2019 without an agreement on how to roll back the North’s nuclear weapons program ​or ease the United Nations sanctions imposed on the North. ​

After Mr. Kim returned home ​empty-handed from Hanoi, North Korea blamed the South. Mr. Kim’s government ordered that communications be cut and the liaison office in Kaesong be destroyed.

But Mr. Moon’s government has kept up its efforts to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table. One of the priorities in such efforts was to reopen communication lines.

South Korea has long emphasized the importance of ​cross-border hotlines to avert unintended clashes between the two militaries. ​Both Koreas have also used the hotlines to propose dialogue and discuss humanitarian supplies and other conciliatory gestures, such as arranging reunions of families long separated by the Korean War.

Mr. Moon’s government also helped enact a new law that banned sending propaganda leaflets into the North. North Korea has long bristled at these leaflets, which typically depict Mr. Kim as a cretinous dictator toying with nuclear weapons​, and cited them as one of the reasons it cut off communications last year.

Mr. Moon has also urged President Biden to build on the 2018 Singapore agreement, which Mr. Trump signed with Mr. Kim to set broad goals of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

After a monthslong policy review, the Biden administration committed to take a “calibrated” and “practical” approach ​toward the North. But the North has yet to respond to Washington’s offer to reopen dialogue “anywhere, anytime without preconditions.”

North Korea’s ​economy, already hit hard by international sanctions, has been further pummeled by the coronavirus pandemic. ​The country’s deepening economic troubles may have compelled North Korea to reopen communications with the South, said Lee Byong-chul, a North Korea expert at Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul.

Last month, Mr. Kim warned of a looming food shortage​.

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N.Y.C. to Require City Workers to Be Vaccinated by Mid-September

The drive to get Americans vaccinated accelerated on Monday when the most populous state and largest city in the United States announced that they would require their employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, or face frequent tests.

All municipal employees in New York City, including police officers and teachers, and all state employees and on-site public and private health care workers in California will have to be vaccinated or face at least weekly testing.

The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday also became the first federal agency to mandate that some of its employees get inoculated.

The mandates are the most dramatic response yet to the lagging pace of vaccinations around the country in the face of the highly contagious Delta variant, which is tearing through communities with low rates of vaccination and creating what federal health officials have called a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Vaccines remain effective against the worst outcomes of Covid-19, including from the Delta variant, but only 49 percent of people in the United States are fully vaccinated, according to federal data.

Misinformation and skepticism have dogged the vaccine rollout, too, and in recent weeks new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations have risen, with a fourfold increase in new cases per day over the last month.

But both indicators, as well as new deaths, remain well below their winter peaks. Cities, private employers and other institutions have been grappling with whether to require vaccines to help get more people vaccinated.

Nearly 60 major medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association, signed a joint statement on Monday calling for the mandatory vaccination of health care workers that described inoculation as “the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers.”

Hospitals and health care systems like NewYork-Presbyterian and Trinity Health have already announced vaccine mandates, in some cases touching off union protests. The National Football League recently announced it could penalize teams with players who do not get vaccinated. Delta Air Lines will require new employees to be vaccinated, but not its current workers. And last week a federal judge ruled that Indiana University could require vaccinations for students and staff members.

New York City will require its roughly 340,000 municipal workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by the time schools reopen in mid-September or face weekly testing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Enforcing the testing requirement there could be complicated, since the more than two dozen unions that represent municipal employees could take issue with the rule.

Mr. de Blasio said the new measures were first steps and that more would follow, and he reiterated a call to private employers to set vaccine mandates for their workers.

“Right now we are leading by example,” the mayor said. “A lot of times, that’s what private sector employers say that’s what they need.”

In California, where 75 percent of the eligible population has received at least one vaccine dose, the new requirement will apply to roughly 246,000 state employees and many more health care workers in the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

“Everyone that can get vaccinated — should,” Mr. Newsom said on Twitter.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York avoided supporting a statewide measure like Mr. Newsom’s and argued most “public-facing” employees are municipal, not state workers, suggesting mandates were more of a question for localities.

Mr. Newsom blamed misinformation for the pandemic’s persistence, slamming in particular Republican members of Congress and Fox News pundits who have questioned vaccines.

“We are exhausted — respectfully, exhausted — by the ideological prism that too many Americans are living under,” he said. “We are exhausted by the right-wing echo chamber that has been perpetuating misinformation around the vaccine and its efficacy and safety.”

On Monday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said vaccine mandates are meant to keep Americans safe, but she distanced the federal government’s vaccination efforts from such requirements, reinforcing comments she made last week that mandates were decisions best left to private sector companies, institutions and local communities.

“We are not going to judge our success here by whether we score political points,” she said on Monday. “We are going to judge it by whether we are able to save more lives, and if the health and medical experts suggest that’s the right way to go then we will support that.”

Eliza Shapiro contributed reporting.

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Arise Apparel has new products!!

This afternoon we found a number of great products. There are a few items in Arise Apparel worth featuring today, so let us get going asap!

1st off on the list:

Just Believe in Him Jesus Christ T-Shirt 😛

Limited Stock.Wear this while you work out, workout, jog, run, play sports, or whatever your thing is. While doing so, you are in a position to witness to people in addition they may indeed rely on Him, Jesus Christ. A powerful way to share your faith, just get it done!

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Our 2nd item on the list for today is F5 Challenge Trucker Hat Cap.

Your purchase helps raise fund because of this ministry. F5 Challenge is a grassroots movement & ministry that really wants to enrich lives through genuine “face to face” fellowship and exciting adventure challenges in a faith enriching environment. Their motto is “Made To Move”, hence the 5 F’s means: Fitness. Fellowship. Faith. Fortitude. Fun.

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F5 Challenge > F5 Challenge Trucker Hat Cap