North Korea accused South Korea of tampering with a border marker and threatened to retaliate yesterday, a day after their first official talks in more than a year ended without progress.
The North claimed that the South Korean military had moved a marker on their heavily armed border dozens of meters to the north, calling the move a “serious military provocation” and a “vicious criminal act.”
It warned it would “take a measure for self defense and the South Korean warmongers will be held entirely accountable for all the ensuing consequences” unless the marker was returned to its original place, the North’s Korean Central News Agency said.
South Korea’s military rejected the accusations as “groundless” and urged the North to stop raising tensions.
The allegations came a day after the two Koreas held their first government-to-government talks since conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in February last year with a pledge to get tough with North Korea and its nuclear ambitions.
The brief talks, which followed a full day of procedural haggling, ended without progress. The North rejected the South’s request for the release of a South Korean worker who has been held for weeks at a joint industrial complex in its border city of Kaesong. North Korea says the worker denounced its political system.
Tensions have been running high on the divided peninsula since North Korea’s April 5 rocket launch, which was criticized by the UN Security Council. In response, North Korea angrily quit nuclear disarmament talks, expelled international monitors and vowed to restart its nuclear facilities.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is to visit North Korea today and tomorrow, his ministry announced, and is expected to try to persuade it to reverse those decisions.
The North also has been ratcheting up tensions with the South, warning over the weekend that its neighbor should not forget that its capital is only 50km away from the border — an apparent reminder that the sprawling city is within easy artillery range.
General Walter Sharp of the US, commander of the 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, called North Korea a “very dangerous country.”
But he said the US and South Korean militaries were fully prepared for any possibilities, “whether it’s a full-out attack from North Korea, provocations or great instabilities within North Korea.”
Relations between the two Koreas have frayed badly as North Korea has denounced the South Korean government’s tougher stance. It cut off reconciliation talks and suspended key joint projects, leaving the industrial zone as the only major remaining project.
At Tuesday’s talks, the North told the South that the industrial park “is facing a crisis due to the South,” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyeon said.
Kim said the North again warned South Korea not to join a US-led program aimed at stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, a move North Korea has said would be considered a “declaration of war.”
North Korea has condemned the program, the Proliferation Security Initiative, as part of US efforts to overthrow its communist government.