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(Yonhap Editorial) Continued North Korean threats
SEOUL, April 3 (Yonhap) -- North Korea continued to jack up tensions on the Korean Peninsula on Wednesday by barring South Korean workers from entering an inter-Korean industrial complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

   The move followed the communist country's bellicose declaration the previous day that it would reopen nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, in a clear breach of a 2007 agreement made at the six-party talks on the North's denuclearization.

   A spokesman for the North's General Department of Atomic Energy said that measures to "adjust and alter the use of existing nuclear facilities (in Yongbyon)" will be taken in line with the communist country's two-track strategy of developing nuclear and economic power simultaneously.

   "This will include the measure for readjusting and restarting all the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon including uranium enrichment plant and 5MW graphite moderated reactor which had been mothballed and disabled under an agreement reached at the six-party talks in October, 2007."
The declaration is an obvious message that Pyongyang is going to step up efforts to extract enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons in defiance of U.N. sanctions against it over its third nuclear test on Feb. 12.
The North's entry ban against South Korean workers came out three days after its threat to shut down the complex in an angry reaction to South Korean news media reports that Pyongyang is unlikely to do so because the complex is a key source of hard currency for the cash-strapped country.

   Some observers here are concerned that the ban might be a step toward the ultimate closure of the complex -- home to 123 small South Korean companies hiring some 54,000 North Korean workers.

   A worrisome situation surrounding the safety of South Koreans at the complex is feared to occur in any contingency. As of Wednesday, 822 workers, including eight foreigners, from South Korea are staying there.

   It cannot be ruled out for the government to recommend the withdrawal of all South Korean workers should the North take any further steps against their safety.

   The complex is a product of the first-ever inter-Korean summit in 2000 between the late South and North Korean leaders Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il, and can be called the last bastion that the two Koreas should not give up on for the sake of inter-Korean unification that will surely be realized sometime in the future.

   On Monday, the North Korean parliament elected reformist economist Pak Pong-ju as the country's new premier in an apparent ardent wish to revive its moribund economy.

   But the way the North can revive its economy is not through developing but giving up nuclear weapons. There is nothing it can gain from such continued provocative threats.