North Korea Takes Another Dangerous Step

North Korea has shut down the last means of communication between the North and the South:

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.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    For the last several decades North Korea’s grand strategy has been that if they bark loudly enough someone will throw them a Scooby snack.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    This is not a good development and, again, it makes one wonder exactly what North Korea has up it’s sleeve.

    Coming to the end of winter, all the food stores just about used up…. I suspect the only thing the N Koreans have up their sleeve is a starving populace. Old tactic of every dictator: When in trouble at home, distract the people with an outside threat and whip up their patriotic fervor.

  3. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Well, the Norks are an abject failure even by leftism standards, so anything I guess is possible. But that all said I have to agree that this is akin to a starving dog biting at your leg to get you to feed it.

    Incidentally, remember Hillary’s “It’s 3:00 a.m.” ad, from the ’08 primaries? Apropos, is it not? Strikes a real nerve now, does it not? Look around the world. Syria. North Korea. Iran. Egypt. Cyprus. PIIGS. The EU zone. China. Iraq. Afghanistan. Look at our own unemployment and underemployment rates. The deficit. The debt. Not exactly the sort of job for which training wheels are recommended.

  4. grumpy realist says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: Well, Hillary has certainly had more experience in dealing with these sorts of foreign policy issues than the standard crew now touted as possible Republican candidates in 2016…..

    So you’ll vote for Hillary then?

  5. Mr. Replica says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Silly realist.

    Naive world view and zero experience >>>>>>>>>>>>>> BENGHAZI!!!!!!

    Also, you seem to forget Obama had little experience and that didn’t stop him from becoming POTUS. But, you have to promise not to throw the fact that Obama haters always used his lack of experience as a negative…You know, when they turn around and say that it shouldn’t stop their guy from becoming president BECAUSE OBAMA!