SEOUL, South Korea – Raising tensions with South Korea yet again, North Korea said it cut the last military hotline with Seoul because there was no need for communications in a situation where a war may break out at any moment.
The hotline had linked the militaries of North Korea and South Korea, which do not have diplomatic relations. The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war, divided by a heavily guarded border and with both governments prohibiting direct contact with citizens on the other side.
However, for nearly a decade, the main use of the military hotline was to arrange passage for South Korean managers who work at a joint industrial complex in the North through the Demilitarized Zone. In 2009, North Koreas move to sever the phone connection stranded South Korean workers in the North for several days.
The move Wednesday to shut down one of the only modes of communication between the Koreas is the latest of a series of threats designed to provoke the new government in Seoul to change its policies toward neighboring North Korea. President Park Geun-hye took office in Seoul a month ago.
Moves at home to order North Korean troops into combat readiness also are seen as ways to build domestic unity as young leader Kim Jong Un strengthens his military credentials.
North Koreas chief delegate to inter-Korean military talks relayed in a message Wednesday to his South Korean counterpart that Pyongyang would sever communications until South Korea halts hostile acts against the neighbor.
South Korea and the U.S. have been holding routine joint military drills that Pyongyang considers rehearsals for invasion. North Korea also accuses the South of joining the U.S. in leading the campaign to punish Pyongyang for conducting a long-range rocket launch in December and an underground nuclear test in February.
Under the situation where a war may break out any moment, there is no need to keep North-South military communications, he said. North-South military communications will be cut off.
Seouls Unification Ministry, which is in charge of relations with the North, called it an unhelpful measure for the safe operation of the Kaesong complex.
There was no immediate word about the impact on South Korean workers who were at the Kaesong industrial complex. About 750 South Koreans were working in Kaesong on Wednesday, officials said.
Since 2004, the Kaesong factories have operated with South Korean money and know-how, with North Korean factory workers managed by South Koreans.