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Pyongyang threatens to cut ties with Seoul

Latest update : 2008-10-16

Just days after North Korea reached a deal with the US to re-start a nuclear disarmament programme, Pyongyang threatened to cut all ties with South Korea, a major source of aid to the impoverished communist state.

Destitute North Korea on Thursday threatened to end all relations with South Korea, a major source of aid and cash, in anger at the hard-line policies of its conservative president.


It comes days after North Korea pledged to resume taking apart a nuclear plant that makes bomb-grade plutonium and return to a disarmament deal after the United States took the North off its terrorism blacklist and removed some trade sanctions.


"If the group of traitors keeps to the road of reckless confrontation with the DPRK (North Korea), defaming its dignity despite its repeated warnings, this will compel it to make a crucial decision including the total freeze of the North-South relations," the North's communist party newspaper said in a commentary, referring to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.


The state media regularly hurls insults at Lee but this latest commentary was similar in form to a warning issued in April that was followed by the North cutting off direct dialogue and expelling South Korean officials from a joint factory park just north of the border.


 The compromise in a nuclear deal it has with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States, give the ostracised North more chance to tap into international finance and trade.


 North Korea pledged to allow in international inspectors to check claims it made about its nuclear programme after the United States removes it from a terrorism blacklist.


North Korea's improved standing in the outside world could help it raise its crippled industrial base and possibly make it easier for overseas investors to tap into its mineral wealth.


"The North is saying that should the South not change its policy to a more favourable one, it could isolate it in the nuclear talks and try to get closer with the United States," said Koh Yu-hwan, a Dongguk University professor of North Korea studies.


North Korea, with an economy that is less than 3 percent of the South's, has seen aid from its rich neighbour cut drastically since Lee came to power in February promising huge investment and aid for his neighbour if it gave up trying to create a nuclear arsenal.


But Pyongyang rejected his overtures, a move analysts said reflected its autocratic government's fear that a large influx of South Korean businessmen would threaten its grip on one of the world's most reclusive societies.


Analysts have said that Pyongyang may be hoping its latest nuclear compromise will open the door to doing business internationally and make it less dependent on South Korea.


The Lee government has asked North Korea to hold bilateral talks and resume humanitarian projects such as reunions for the tens of thousands of families separated after the 1950-1953 Korean War, which has never officially ended.


South Korean officials have said Seoul is ready to speed up cooperation projects if the North reaches out.

Date created : 2008-10-16