North to cancel military pacts

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North to cancel military pacts

In its latest threats to Seoul, North Korea declared yesterday it would “completely nullify” inter-Korean agreements providing military guarantees with South Korea and void another pact designed to prevent naval clashes off the west coast.

The North also said it would consider taking measures to ban all South Koreans and their vehicles from entering the Kaesong Industrial Complex, without giving a specific time frame.

The two Koreas held military talks in 2003 and again in 2007 to agree to military safeguards for inter-Korean land and rail travels. The two signed a deal in 2004 at another round of discussions to use maritime communications to avoid accidental clashes in the waters.

North Korea warned yesterday that if South Korean ships intrude into North Korean seas, it will launch “a prompt physical strike.”

The threats came on the same day the South Korean Navy staged its first anti-submarine exercise since the probe into the sinking of the Navy patrol ship Cheonan concluded that the North had sunk the 1,200-ton corvette.

Military officials said about 10 ships, including a 3,000-ton destroyer, participated in the single-day exercise. The Navy is also planning a joint anti-submarine exercise with U.S. forces.

The threat to ban all South Koreans and their vehicles from entering Kaesong followed a threat Wednesday that the North would cut off South Korean access to an inter-Korean zone on the west coast - indicating Kaesong - if the South resumed propaganda broadcasts over loudspeakers along the border, as it said it would Monday.

Officials at the Unification Ministry in Seoul said they were carefully monitoring the situation but weren’t taking any action on Kaesong, since the North had not yet applied concrete measures.

Built in 2003, at a time of improved inter-Korean ties, the Kaesong industrial zone is one of the last symbols of inter-Korean reconciliation. More than 120 South Korean companies employ 42,000 North Koreans, and shutting down the complex would deal a financial blow to both countries.

South Korean firms use Kaesong as the base of their exports to parts of Asia, and Kaesong serves as a source of foreign currency for North Korea, whose workers are paid in U.S. dollars.

Since South Korea announced Monday a series of countermeasures against the North for the Cheonan’s sinking, the North expelled eight South Korean officials from Kaesong Wednesday and cut off a border hot line and maritime communications with the South.

Pyongyang has also declared it would sever all relations with South Korea and won’t have any exchanges with Seoul as long as Lee Myung-bak remains president.

By Yoo Jee-ho []
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