North Korea cuts off Red Cross hotline today as tensions in the region continue to mount.
North Korea did not respond to South Korea’s daily call over a Red Cross hotline according to Reuters March 11. The incident happened after Pyongyang had threatened to cut off the hotline early Monday morning.
The United States and South Korea commenced a new round of military drills Monday. The drills involve 10,000 South Korean troops and 3,000 U.S troops and are scheduled to last 11 days.
They are annual drills that have historically prompted a hostile North Korean response.
This time, North Korea cut off the hotline installed by the Red Cross to facilitate communication between the two nations, and started military drills of its own.
Tensions have run high on the Korean peninsula over the past week following Thursday’s announcement of increased UN sanctions against North Korea. The sanctions aim to slow the development of the country’s nuclear program.
North Korea responded to the sanctions by threatening a pre-emptive nuclear attack against the United States. The U.S State Department hardly responded, as analysts agree that North Korea does not have nuclear weapons capable of reaching the United States.
Friday, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced the end of the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement. The armistice, signed by the United States, North Korea and China, put in place a ceasefire that ended the Korean War. Since a peace agreement was never reached the countries have remained technically at war for the past 67 years and their interactions are governed by the terms of the armistice.
North Korea’s announcement could signal a return to combat.
China, historically a strong ally of North Korea, agreed to participate in this most recent round of sanctions. China’s cooperation is essential to the success of the sanctions as North Korea’s primary export are minerals sold to China.
According to Wendell Minnick, analyst for Defense News, this is a significant change in China’s policy towards North Korea.
The new South Korean President Park Geun-hye has taken a hard line toward North Korean aggression since her election Feb 25.
While the shutdown of the Red Cross telephone line may signal the end of communication between the two nations, some see it as a largely symbolic move.
There are signs of business-as-usual on Monday when South Korean employees at the Kaesong Industrial park we allowed to cross the border into North Korea to go to work.
Kaesong is an economic joint venture between the North and the South, “designed to facilitate closer economic ties by allowing deep-pocketed South Korean firms to hire cheap North Korean labor in the labor-intensive garment and electronics sectors,” according to South Korean media Yonhap.
According to Yonhap, 2012 was a strong year for companies operating in the inter-Korean economic project zone. Economic output was estimated at $470 million, despite rising political tensions.
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