After months of unsettling tensions, North and South Korea tentatively agreed Thursday to hold talks about reopening the shared manufacturing zone where Pyongyang halted activity in April.
The North proposed the meeting to discuss the shuttered Kaesong Industrial Zone — a major symbol of cooperation between the two countries — along with other issues in a statement published by state-run media.
“The venue of the talks and the date for their opening can be set to the convenience of the south side,” it said.
South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae suggested a date of June 12 for the meeting.
Report: North Korea launches missiles North Korea pulls workers from complex Memories of fighting for North Korea Britain’s little North Korea
“We positively view that North Korea has accepted the continuous proposal for talks between South and North Korean authorities, which our government has been continuously making,” Ryoo said.
The very survival of a joint factory zone in North Korea that has been billed as the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean cooperation is in doubt after South Korea decided Friday to withdraw all of its workers there, analysts said.
In one of its latest moves that drastically escalated cross-border tensions, North Korea on April 9 pulled all of its 53,000 workers from 123 South Korean companies operating at its border city of Kaesong.
After its proposal for dialogue was turned down by North Korea, South Korea on Friday said it will pull out all of its 175 workers remaining in Kaesong.
The tit-for-tat followed near-daily threats of war by North Korea after it conducted its third nuclear test in February. The North was particularly enraged by annual joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises that began in early March and will continue through April.
“North Korea may confiscate assets of the 123 companies in Kaesong as they did in 2008 at Mount Kumgang,” a North Korea affairs expert in Seoul said, referring to a cross-border sightseeing tour to the North’s mountain resort.
South Korea says it is withdrawing its remaining workers from a jointly-run industrial complex in North Korea.
The announcement came from the unification minister shortly after Pyongyang rejected an offer of talks.
North Korea blocked access to the Kaesong zone - once a symbol of inter-Korean co-operation - earlier this month and later pulled its workers out.
The move followed weeks of high tension in the wake of North Korea’s third nuclear test in February.
“Because our nationals remaining in the Kaesong industrial zone are experiencing greater difficulties due to the North’s unjust actions, the government has come to the unavoidable decision to bring back all remaining personnel in order to protect their safety,” Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said.
“North Korea must guarantee the safe return of our personnel and fully protect the assets of the companies with investment in Kaesong,” he added.
He did not give a timescale for the withdrawal. A total of 175 South Korean workers are currently in the complex, which is home to South Korean factories staffed by North Korean workers.
Timeline: Korean tensions
12 Dec: North launches a rocket, claiming to have put a satellite into orbit
12 Feb: North conducts underground nuclear test
11 Mar: US-South Korea annual military drills begin
30 Mar: North says it is entering a “state of war” with South
2 Apr: North says it is restarting Yongbyon reactor
3 Apr: North blocks South workers from Kaesong industrial zone
9 Apr: North pulls its workers from Kaesong zone
10 Apr: North moves two mid-range Musudan missiles to its east coast
26 Apr: South Korea announces withdrawal of all remaining South Korean workers
The remaining South Koreans were believed to be running out of food and medicines, because the North had refused to allow fresh supplies in.
South Korea on Thursday extended an offer to hold government-level talks with North Korea over the joint industrial complex that has been idle since early this month amid heightened inter-Korean tensions.
“We are making an official offer to North Korea to discuss ways of normalizing operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and want to hear their position on the matter before noon Friday,” said unification ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk.
“If Pyongyang does not respond by the deadline, Seoul will have no choice but to take serious measures,” he said, and indication that South Korea may take a “tough” stance on the industrial complex issue. If tough actions are taken, it will mark a departure from the country’s previously held position of trying to resolve the situation through dialogue, even if it takes time.
NORTH Korea has completed preparations for a mid-range missile launch tomorrow from its east coast, officials in Seoul have revealed - just hours after foreigners living in South Korea were warned to quit the country.
The worrying warning came as speculation heightened that North Korea is planning to pull its ambassador out of the UK after a shipping container was pictured outside the London embassy.
Boxes were seen being loaded onto a large lorry parked outside the pariah state’s embassy - an ordinary home in Ealing, west London.Seoul revealed today that foreign nationals in South Korea were told by the North to evacuate in case of a “merciless” war.
“We do not wish harm on foreigners in South Korea should there be a war,” said the KCNA news agency, citing its Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee.
“The situation on the Korean Peninsula is inching close to a thermo-nuclear war,” said the statement.
North Korea intensified threats of an imminent conflict against the United States and the South on Tuesday, warning foreigners to evacuate South Korea to avoid being dragged into “thermonuclear war”.
The North’s latest message belied an atmosphere free of anxiety in the South Korean capital, where the city center was bustling with traffic and offices operated normally.
Pyongyang has shown no sign of preparing its 1.2 million-strong army for war, indicating the threat could be aimed partly at bolstering Kim Jong-un, 30, the third in his family to lead the country.
The North, which threatens the United States and its “puppet”, South Korea, on a daily basis, is marking anniversaries this week that could be accompanied by strong statements or military displays.
The warning to foreigners in the South, reported by the KCNA news agency, said once war broke out “it will be an all-out war, a merciless, sacred, retaliatory war to be waged by (North Korea).
On orders from a U.S. instructor, Corporal Kim Jong Chan leaps out of a Black Hawk helicopter hovering near the world’s most fortified border. The South Korean soldier rappels 90 feet down, rehearsing for the day he may have to go behind North Korean lines in the event of a war.
“It’s not often that South Koreans get the chance to participate in one of the hardest training courses of the world’s most powerful army,” Kim said before completing the U.S. Air Assault School training last month at Camp Casey, 25 kilometers (16 miles) south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. “We hold our own drills, but the U.S. definitely offers better equipment and training.”
Soldiers like Kim will lead front line defenses against any North Korean attack for the first time in six decades, after the U.S. hands to South Korea wartime control of its own troops in 2015. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has stoked tensions by testing an atomic device, threatening a nuclear strike against the U.S., and declaring a “state of war.”
South Korean President Park Geun Hye will have to shoulder added defense funding to secure the border at a time when economic growth is slowing and welfare demands are escalating. Military proficiency may also be an issue: Kim was the only one of nine South Korea soldiers who passed the air assault course.
As North Korea ratchets up its apocalyptic rhetoric, the U.S. military has sent advanced warplanes to a big training exercise with South Korea, including its premier stealth fighter, the F-22 Raptor. Only the Pentagon clarified today that the jets haven’t actually flown yet.
Two F-22 Raptors are on “static display” at the Osan air base south of Seoul, Pentagon spokesman George Little said. Outside of the flight on Sunday from Japan’s Kadena air base, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, the jets have yet to take part in the U.S.-South Korea exercise Foal Eagle, which will continue until the end of April.
The Raptors were previously scheduled to join the exercise, Little said, but their presence on the Korean Peninsula comes as North Korea has acted increasingly erratically since its latest nuclear detonation. An official statement over the weekend threatened a “do-or-die battle” with the United States, following the release of a photograph seeming to show Pyongyang’s leadership targeting the continental U.S. with long-range ballistic missiles it does not possess.
The mutual bluster and braggadocio persisted over the weekend on the Korean peninsula, as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un continued to drive his state down an atomic dead-end. He brayed anew at the state of war between his impoverished nation and the alliance of South Korea and the U.S., at least when his websites, seemingly hacked over the weekend, were operational.
The U.S. military, for its part, saw Kim a pair of B-2 bombers, and raised him a squadron of F-22 fighters. The best fighters in the world, the F-22s - normally based in Japan - flew to South Korea’s Osan air base to participate in the continuing U.S.-Soul Korean month-long military exercise that has unnerved Pyongyang.
It’s almost as if the U.S. Air Force has moved a branch of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum to South Korea. First, Eisenhower-era B-52 flew missions over the peninsula, followed by Reagan-era B-2s. With Sunday’s dispatch of the George W. Bush-era F-22s, the Pentagon is running out of airpower muscles to flex. It will be years before the next-generation fighter, the F-35, is operational.
But North Korea can take solace from the fact that the F-22, operational for three U.S. wars, has seen action in none of them. Designed to combat Soviet fighters that were never built, the world’s best and most costly fighter — $350 million a pop — is now poised to strike fear into a nation that cannot even adequately feed its people.
China has placed military forces on heightened alert in the northeastern part of the country as tensions mount on the Korean peninsula following recent threats by Pyongyang to attack, U.S. officials said.
Reports from the region reveal the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recently increased its military posture in response to the heightened tensions, specifically North Korea’s declaration of a “state of war” and threats to conduct missile attacks against the United States and South Korea.
According to the officials, the PLA has stepped up military mobilization in the border region with North Korea since mid-March, including troop movements and warplane activity.
China’s navy also conducted live-firing naval drills by warships in the Yellow Sea that were set to end Monday near the Korean peninsula, in apparent support of North Korea, which was angered by ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills that are set to continue throughout April.