“A conversation has commenced with the KPA [Korean People's Army] through the mechanisms of the Armistice Agreement.”
United Nations Command Lieutenant General Andrew Harrison in a briefing on Monday, confirming that the U.N. has reached out to North Korea concerning a U.S. soldier who unexpectedly and purposefully crossed over into the country's territory.
jul 24, 2023
Big Picture: Installed in 1976, after the Armistice Agreement that ended combat between North and South Korea in 1953, a "light pink-colored, touch-tone phone" was established in the border village of Panmunjom, between North and South Korea, at the U.S.-led United Nations Command. According to The Associated Press, it is "One of the most reliable ways for the U.S. to reach North Korea." The phone connects the liaison officers from the North and South – whose offices reportedly lie about 130 feet apart.
The phone lines re-opened in July of 2019 (for the first time since 2013) "as part of an inter-Korean agreement" (The Wall Street Journal). Calls took place twice daily at 9:30 am and 3:30 pm in both English and Korean, though The Wall Street Journal reported in 2019 that the North Koreans often said they had no message.
Throughout 2022, the U.N. Command said it passed 98 messages and held "twice-daily line checks for timely & meaningful information exchange" via the pink phone.
It's unknown whether the pink phone was used in the U.N. Command's or the U.S.' recent outreach to North Korea (regarding the U.S. soldier, 23-year-old Private 2nd Class Travis King, who officials believe is in North Korean custody), which State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller said on Monday was only "acknowledged" by the country.
Important To Note: Miller said the U.S. has also reached out to North Korea regarding regarding King; he explained, "We have made outreach to North Korea to let them know that we wanted to ascertain the whereabouts of Private King, we wanted information about his safety, but we have not recieved any response from them at all." He noted that the U.S. "will continue to make our position clear to North Korea ... we are concerned about his safety, his well being, we want him to be returned as soon as possible so we will continue to work this case."