North issues new military threats as tour talks begin

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North issues new military threats as tour talks begin

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The importation of sand from North Korea was resumed yesterday at a port in Ulsan. The sand shipment had been suspended since March last year after North Korea ratcheted up tensions by test-firing missiles on the east coast. [NEWSIS]


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 [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

인민보안성·보위부 연합성명


북한의 인민보안성과 국가안전보위부는 8일 “우리의 사회주의 체제 전복과 내부 와해를 노린 책동을 짓뭉개버리기 위한 전면적인 강력 조치를 취할 것”이라고 밝혔다.

두 기관은 ‘연합성명’에서 “최근 남조선 당국의 반(反)공화국 체제 전복 시도는 위험 수위를 넘어서고 있다”며 남측이 ▶선(先) 핵폐기 책동 ▶대북 정탐·모략 ▶대북 전단 살포 등을 벌인다고 주장했다. 보안성은 우리의 경찰, 보위부는 국가정보원에 해당한다.

조선중앙통신에 따르면 두 기관은 “인민보안 및 안전보위군의 모든 역량과 수단이 총동원 될 것”이라며 “우리에게는 아직 다 말하지 않고 공개하지 않은 최첨단의 세계적 타격 역량과 안전보위 수단이 있다”고 위협했다. 성명은 “불순 세력을 쓸어버리기 위한 거족적인 보복 성전(聖戰)은 이미 시작됐다”고 덧붙였다. 북한 국방위는 지난달 15일 “대남 보복성전이 개시될 것”이라고 언급한 바 있다.

이번 성명은 화폐개혁을 비롯한 북한 내부 사정이 남측에 그대로 흘러나오는 것과 맞물려 있다는 분석이다. 정성장 세종연구소 수석연구위원은 “북한 당국이 최근 내부정보 유출이 심해지면서 체제 위기를 느끼고 있기 때문”이라고 말했다.

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