North Korea Takes Another Dangerous Step
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea cut off the last remaining military hotlines with South Korea on Wednesday, accusing President Park Geun-hye of South Korea of pursuing the same hard-line policy of her predecessor that the North blamed for a prolonged chill in inter-Korean relations.
Amid tensions over the North’s third nuclear test last month and ensuing United Nations sanctions, North Korea had already shut down Red Cross hotlines with South Korea and a communication line with the American military command in South Korea. But its decision to cut off military hotlines with South Korea on Wednesday was taken more seriously in Seoul because the two Koreas have used those four telephone lines to control daily cross-border traffic of workers and cargo travelling to the North Korean border town of Kaesong.
The two countries run a joint industrial park at Kaesong, the last standing symbol of inter-Korean cooperation that has survived the political tensions of recent years. Seoul officials said 887 South Korean workers were in Kaesong on Wednesday. The traffic was running normal on Wednesday, South Korean officials said, indicating that the North Korean military did not go so far as to stop cross-border economic exchanges.
“There do not exist any dialogue channel and communications means between the DPRK and the U.S. and between the North and the South,” said a North Korean statement sent to the South Korean military by telephone and later carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. “Not words but only arms will work on the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces.”
DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official name.
The North’s action came a day after its top military command ordered all its missile and artillery units to be on “the highest alert” and ready to strike the United States and South Korea. It also vowed to take “substantial military actions” to retaliate against joint U.S.-South Korean military drills, which involved American B-52 bomber sorties over South Korea.
North Korea had previously cut off communications lines with South Korea that are intended to prevent military clashes.
“Under the situation where a war may break out any moment, there is no need to keep North-South military communications,” Pyongyang said on Wednesday.
The North Korean action came shortly after President Park Geun-hye of South Korea stressed both firmness and reciprocity in North Korea policy.
“If North Korea provokes or does things that harm peace, we must make sure that it gets nothing but will pay the price, while if it keeps its promises, the South should do the same,” she said during a briefing from her government’s top diplomats and North Korea policy-makers. “Without rushing and in the same way we would lay one brick after another, we must develop South-North relations step by step, based on trust, and create sustainable peace.”
The lack of communications between the two sides makes the possibility of a misunderstanding spiraling out of control. This is not a good development and, again, it makes one wonder exactly what North Korea has up it’s sleeve.