North issues new military threats as tour talks begin
North Korea yesterday threatened to take military action against South Korea for “anti-republic attempts to topple” the North Korean regime. Issued jointly by the Ministry of People’s Security and the National Security Agency, the threat came on the same day that the two Koreas discussed resuming suspended tours to Mount Kumgang and Kaesong north of the border.
The two North agencies threatened to “mercilessly pulverize” those who attempt to damage the North’s national security by mobilizing all its troops and security forces.
The statement criticized the South Korean Navy’s efforts to defend the Northern Limit Line, the disputed maritime border in the west that the North refuses to recognize. The statement called such naval activities “reckless operations” designed to disturb North Korea.
“We have a world-level ultra-modern striking force and means for protecting security which have neither yet been mentioned nor opened to the public in total,” the North said.
North Korea this year has mixed belligerent rhetoric with conciliatory gestures. The two Koreas yesterday held discussions over suspended tours to Mount Kumgang and Kaesong. But the meeting, first proposed by the North, failed to yield a breakthrough.
Tours to Mount Kumgang were suspended in July 2008 after a South Korean woman named Park Wang-ja was shot dead by a North Korean soldier there after entering a restricted military zone. In December that year, tours to Kaesong were also put on hold.
South Korea has since demanded that the North allow an on-site investigation, prevent recurrences of similar incidents and guarantee the safety of future South Korean tourists.
Kim Nam-shik, head of the South Korean delegation, said he pushed the same demands yesterday. But the North counterparts rejected them, on the grounds that the demands had already been met.
Kim said the North’s delegation referred to the immediate South Korean response to the incident. At the time, officials from Hyundai Asan, the company in charge of tourism to North Korea, visited the site of the shooting and recovered Park’s remains.
In August, Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun met North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, and Kim vowed to provide necessary facilities and security for tourism.
Kim said the North proposed Kaesong tours resume on March 1 and the Mount Kumgang tours on April 1. The South didn’t respond. The North asked to meet again this Friday but Kim said the South delegation countered that the North should reconsider the South Korean demands first. The tourism programs are considered a cash cow for North Korea. Apparently pressed for cash by international sanctions restricting financial transactions and arms trade, North Korea has appeared anxious to reopen the border for tourism.
By Yoo Jee-ho [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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