By Steve Herman – SEOUL — North Korea says it is cutting a key military hotline with the South. It is the latest setback on the peninsula, amid an escalating war of words between the two Koreas.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry confirms the North Koreans are no longer answering the military hotline at the Kaesong industrial complex, just north of the Demilitarized Zone.
An announcer on Pyongyang’s central broadcasting station Wednesday afternoon says “under the situation where a war may break out at any moment, there is no need to keep north-south military communications.”
This comes two weeks after the North also cut the Red Cross communications link to the South.
An aviation hotline is now the only remaining direct communications link between the two Koreas, which have no diplomatic relations.
South Korea’s transport ministry confirmed that the aviation hotline is still working.
The Kaesong military and aviation hotlines between airports at Incheon and Pyongyang were previously cut in 2010.
North Korea’s state media says its military, “equipped with nuclear, high-precision sophisticated weapons,” is on the highest alert and awaiting supreme commander Kim Jong Un’s order to initiate war.
For only the second time since the South Korean president’s inauguration a month ago, North Korea also has made reference to Madame Park Geun-hye.
This comes in reaction to the South Korean president’s speech Tuesday warning the North its survival hinges on giving up its nuclear weapons and the quest to develop long-range ballistic missiles.
During a broadcast from Pyongyang on state radio Wednesday, an announcer, quoting the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, blasts President Park for referencing hunger in the North and the country’s isolation, saying she better watch her tongue and not utter further unpardonable provocations.
Although not mentioning Madame Park’s name or actual title, the announcer says the owner of the presidential office should be mindful that any wrong word from her could “entail horrible disaster” at a dangerous time and result with her meeting “a miserable ruin” should she defy Pyongyang’s warnings.
Another statement issued Wednesday from North Korea’s foreign ministry was directed at the United States. It said while the U.S. may have “numerical superiority of nuclear weapons it will not be able to escape a miserable plight of perishing forever in the flames kindled with its own hands.”
Lim Eul-chul, a professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul, sees these provocative statements as an attempt by Pyongyang to be taken seriously.
Lim adds that, although most of international society will not agree with Pyongyang’s position, the North is still attempting to secure support from countries apt to be more sympathetic, such as China and Russia.
And another Wednesday announcement from Pyongyang says the workers’ party central committee is to convene later this month “to discuss and decide an important issue.”
No specific date or details were given beyond saying that the committee will make “a drastic turn” to achieve revolutionary goals.
Professor Lim at Kyungnam University says the meeting might unveil new economic policies.
He says this could include new regulations to attract desperately needed foreign capital and the committee might also announce a shake-up of internal organizations in response to the changing political situation at home and abroad.
North Korea previously announced that the country’s rubber stamp legislature, the Supreme People’s Assembly, is to meet in Pyongyang on April 1.
North Korea and South Korea, respectively, are considered to have the world’s third and fourth largest armies.
They fought a bitter three-year war in the early 1950’s. The Korean War ended with an armistice, which Pyongyang said earlier this month it was abrogating. Seoul never signed the war truce but the U.S.-led United Nations command says it cannot be voided unilaterally and thus the armistice remains in effect.
The United States maintains more than 28,000 personnel of its armed forces in South Korea. A U.S. general also leads the U.N. command, which fought the North Korean and Chinese forces during the war and remains in place for the defense of the South.
-Kaesong is operated in the North with South Korean money
-North Korea cut the line in 2009, leaving South Korean workers briefly stranded in Kaesong
Red Cross Hotline
-Established in 1971
-North and South Korea would make contact two times a day
-North Korea has cut the line several times, most recently in March 2013
North Korea says heightened tensions on the peninsula amid joint U.S.-South Korean military drills this month justifies severing the link.