Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
Further fueling tension between the Koreas, North Korea kicked South Korean government officials out of their joint factory park in the North on Wednesday and threatened to shut it down if Seoul resumes its anti-Pyongyang broadcasts along the border.
The North, accused of sinking a South Korean warship in the Yellow Sea in March, also renewed its threat to shoot South Korean loudspeakers if Seoul sets them up on its side.
The expulsion of eight South Korean officials from the Kaesong complex came a day after Pyongyang repeated its denial of its role in the Cheonan sinking and said it would sever ties with Seoul.
Forty-six crew members died in the sinking, prompting South Korea to vow it will make North Korea pay for the attack. On Monday, the South announced a slew of measures to punish the North, including a trade ban and the resumption of propaganda activities after a six-year halt.
“If the south side persists in scattering leaflets and resumes even the above-said broadcasting, the Korean People’s Army will be compelled to promptly take its strong counter-actions including physical actions,” the unnamed chief North Korean military delegate to talks with the South said in a statement.
“Moreover, measures will be taken to totally ban the passage of personnel and vehicles of the south side in the zone under the north-south control in the western coastal area,” it said in an apparent reference to the Kaesong industrial zone.
The industrial complex, considered the last remaining symbol of detente between the countries, houses about 110 South Korean firms, employing 42,000 low-wage but skilled North Korean workers.
The North Korean warning was accompanied by notification that the communist state was cutting off its hot line with South Korea at their truce village, as well as their maritime communication links.
South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said his government will continue to carry out its retaliatory measures despite angry reaction from Pyongyang.
“Even though the North should apologize and prosecute those responsible (for the sinking,) it has again taken measures undermining inter-Korean relations,” Chun said. “The South will deal with these North Korean threats unwaveringly and sternly.”
The exchange of retaliatory actions comes as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Seoul after visiting Japan and China, a trip that appeared to heavily focus on the Cheonan sinking.
It also comes as the South Korean Navy tracks four North Korean submarines which disappeared from their east coast base after conducting naval training earlier this week.
North Korea says it will suspend dialogue with Seoul as long as President Lee Myung-bak is in office, and announced it would apply “wartime laws” to handle any future inter-Korean affairs.