Seoul: North Korea said on Thursday that it was ripping up military agreements signed with South Korea in a step seen as a prelude to shutting down a joint factory park, just as Seoul staged anti-submarine drills in tense border waters.
Signs also emerged that China, North Korea’s main benefactor and ally, is reviewing ties with the isolated state, a week after international investigators accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a South Korean warship in March. The sinking killed 46 sailors.
In the latest chapter of blistering rhetoric, North Korea accused South Korea of driving 10 years of developing ties into the ground and said it would scrap pacts between the two sides’ militaries guaranteeing the safety of cross-border exchanges.
The move could push North Korea a step closer to severing a border link that provides access to a joint industrial complex in the North Korean city of Kaesong.
“We will completely repeal the military guarantee measures that our army is to enforce related to North-South cooperation exchange,” North Korea’s army chief of staff said in a notice carried by Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency.
It could also mean the beginning of the end for the Kaesong industrial project, where more than 100 South Korean firms use cheap local labour and rent to make consumer goods and has been one of a few legitimate sources of income for North Korea.
Mounting antagonism between the two Koreas has unnerved investors, worried the bitter rivalry could spill over into conflict.
The KCNA statement also said North Korea was cancelling agreements aimed at preventing confrontations in the waters off the peninsula’s west coast and cutting off naval hot-lines. North Korea this week threatened to shut the last road link with South Korea if Seoul resumes loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts across their heavily armed border. It has warned of war if Seoul goes ahead with sanctions announced this week.
The South Korean naval exercise is aimed at better detecting intrusions by North Korean submarines after the sinking of the South Korean corvette Chelonian.