SEOUL: North Korea severed its military hotline with S. Korea yesterday, breaking the last direct communication link between the two countries at a time of heightened military tensions.
The decision coincided with an announcement that the North’s top political leadership would meet in the next few days to discuss an unspecified “important issue” and make a “drastic turn.”
The hotline move was relayed by a senior N. Korean military official to his S. Korean counterpart just before the link was severed.
“Under the situation where a war may break out any moment, there is no need to keep up North-South military communications,” the official was quoted as saying by the official Korean Central News Agency.
“From now, the North-South military communications will be cut off,” he said.
Several weeks ago N. Korea severed the Red Cross hotline that had been used for government-to-government communications in the absence of diplomatic relations.
Severing the military hotline could affect operations at the Seoul-funded Kaesong industrial complex just north of the border because it was used to organize movements of people and vehicles in and out.
The industrial estate — established in 2004 as a symbol of cross-border cooperation — has remained operational despite repeated crises in relations.
“We are negotiating with the North to prevent any operational issues,” an official from the Kaesong management committee said, adding the North has yet to block movements of people to and from Kaesong.
The South’s unification ministry urged the North to retract its action, saying it’s not good for “stable operation” of the complex where more than 50,000 N. Koreans work at small labor-intensive S. Korean plants.
Cutting the hotline was the latest in a series of threats and actions that have raised tensions on the Korean peninsula since the North’s long-range rocket launch in December and its nuclear test last month.
Both events triggered UN sanctions that infuriated Pyongyang, which has spent the past month issuing increasingly bellicose statements about unleashing an “all-out war.”
Earlier yesterday the North announced an imminent meeting of its ruling party politburo and launched a scathing attack on S. Korea’s new president, Park Geun-Hye.
A North Korean state committee accused Park of slander and provocation after she made a speech warning the North that failure to abandon its nuclear weapons program would result in its collapse.
“If she keeps to the road of confrontation... she will meet a miserable ruin,” it said.
In Seoul, some analysts suggested the North was fast running out of threats and targets for its invective as it sought to bully the international community into negotiating on Pyongyang’s terms.
Reproduced with permission from Arab News