N. Korea Vows to Retaliate, Saying It Will Sever All Inter-Korean Relations
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Vehemently denying involvement in the sinking of a South Korean warship, North Korea has reacted with a series of warnings, including an "all-out war" against the South, threats to cut all inter-Korean relations and abolish the two Koreas' agreement on non-aggression.
Relations between the Koreas rapidly deteriorated since last week when Seoul condemned Pyongyang for the deadly March 26 sinking of the South Korean warship.
North Korea said on May 25 that it will sever all relations with South Korea and won't engage in any inter-Korean dialogue or contact during the remaining tenure of President Lee Myung-bak. South Korea, citing a multinational investigation, announced on May 20 that a North Korean submarine had torpedoed its 1,200-ton warship Cheonan, killing 46 sailors.
In a statement issued by the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of (North) Korea (CPRK), the North vowed to cut all communication links with the South and expel all South Korean personnel from the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong.
The North also pledged to freeze and dismantle the Consultative Office for South-North Economic Cooperation in the Kaesong Industrial Zone while completely suspending the work of Red Cross liaison representatives at the truce village of Panmunjom.
The statement went on to say that Pyongyang will ban South Korean ships and airliners from passing through the North's territorial waters and air, in addition to starting an all-out counterattack against the South's anti-North psychological warfare.
"The CPRK formally declares that from now on it will put into force the resolute measures to totally freeze the inter-Korean relations, totally abrogate the agreement on non-aggression between the North and the South and completely halt the inter-Korean cooperation," said the statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The threat came after South Korea announced it would install megaphones along the Demilitarized Zone and resume its anti-North Korea broadcasting that had stopped in a 2004 agreement with Pyongyang. North Korea also withdrew its megaphones that year.
"All the issues arising in the inter-Korean relations will be handled under a wartime law," the statement said, strongly denouncing President Lee over his earlier statement blaming the North for the torpedo attack on the Cheonan.
"The DPRK (North Korea) had already solemnly declared that it would regard the South's anti-DPRK smear campaign over the sinking of the warship as a declaration of a war against the DPRK and mete out merciless and strong punishment if the group dare defile its dignity," said the North's statement.
"The army and the people of the DPRK and all other Koreans will never pardon the group of traitors as it is finally bringing the dark clouds of war to hang over the Korean Peninsula, wantonly violating the historic June 15 joint declaration and the October 4 declaration and bringing the inter-Korean relations to a total collapse," it said, calling President Lee a "traitor."
A day later, the North kicked South Korean government officials out of their joint factory park in the North and threatened to shut it down if Seoul resumes its anti-Pyongyang broadcasts along the border.
The North also renewed its threat to shoot South Korean loudspeakers if Seoul sets them up on its side. The expulsion of eight South Korean officials from the Kaesong complex came a day after Pyongyang repeated its denial of its role in the Cheonan sinking and said it would sever ties with Seoul.
On May 24, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his ministers announced a slew of punitive measures against the North, including halting trade with the impoverished neighbor, banning commercial North Korean ships from passing through southern waters, resuming anti-Pyongyang broadcasts, and staging military and anti-proliferation drills.
The president then indicated on May 25 that South Korea will re-designate North Korea as its main enemy in its defense white paper, while Seoul's Navy announced a plan to hold an anti-submarine drill later this week in waters off the west coast in its first show of military force after the North's torpedo attack on the Cheonan.
On the same day, North Korea warned it will carry out "practical military measures" to defend its western sea border, accusing the South Korean Navy of trespassing its waters. The unnamed chief North Korean military delegate to talks with South Korea claimed in a statement that "dozens of warships" intruded upon North Korean waters in the Yellow Sea from May 14-24.
"Should the South side's intrusions into the territorial waters of our side continue, the (North) will put into force practical military measures to defend its waters," said the statement carried by the official KCNA. "The south side will be held fully accountable for all the ensuing consequences."
The North Korean warning came after South Korea's Navy said it will hold an anti-submarine drill later this week in the Yellow Sea in its first show of military force after the sinking. A total of 10 warships, including a 3,500-ton class destroyer and three patrol ships, will participate in the exercise.
On May 22, North Korea's defense minister demanded that South Korea "unconditionally" allow a delegation from Pyongyang to look into the accusation that the communist state mounted a deadly torpedo attack on the South Korean warship. Kim Yong-chun, minister of the North's People's Armed Forces, told official media that the South Korean refusal to accept the delegation amounts to the "sophistry of a robber."
The South Korean government of Lee Myung-bak "should unconditionally receive the inspection group and clarify the truth in the eyes of the world," the North's defense chief was quoted as saying by the Korean Central News Agency monitored in Seoul.
In a message sent to Pyongyang on May 21, South Korea rejected the North's proposal to send an inspection team, saying that its communist neighbor can clarify its position in a meeting of the Korean Military Armistice Commission, a body that oversees the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War. But the commission has been in limbo since the early 1990s when North Korea unilaterally withdrew from the body after accusing it of being pro-American.
On the same day, North Korea warned it will scrap a non-aggression pact with South Korea and freeze all inter-Korean relations. Accusing South Korea of creating a situation where a war "may break out right now," the North said it will react with "merciless punishment" to any countermeasures by Seoul.
On May 20, North Korea warned it will respond with measures as strong as an "all-out war" if it is punished for the sinking of the Cheonan, demanding Seoul back its accusation in front of an "inspection group" from Pyongyang.
The warning by the North's National Defense Commission came as South Korea announced that North Korea is responsible for the sinking of the corvette. South Korea is "pointing a dirty accusing finger at us like a thief," the commission said in a statement.