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North Korea seizes South-owned resort as warship tensions grow

North Korea has seized five hotels owned by South Korea in a jointly operated resort. The move comes as the South weighs its response to the Cheonan warship sinking.

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The decision to confiscate the resort properties is heavily linked to recent tensions between the two nations. The South has accused North Korea of involvement in sinking the Cheonan on March 26 near their maritime boundary, with the South's defense minister suggesting that a torpedo likely sunk the naval warship. The North has denied any involvement in the incident that killed 39 South Korean sailors.

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This week, President Lee criticized the North's annual April 15 fireworks display to mark birthday of the late Kim Il-sung. According to the Associated Press, North Korea allegedly spent $5.4 million on fireworks on birthday celebration for the current leader's father. Given the food shortages in the North, Mr. Lee said the money would have been better spent trying to provide food for the nation’s citizens.

Tit-for-tat, the North then called Lee a “traitor” for criticizing the elaborate firework display.

In addition to tensions over the sunken warship and Lee's remarks, relations were further strained April 21 when the South apprehended two North Korean agents who had reportedly entered the country to assassinate Hwang Jang-yop, a prominent North Korean who defected to the South 13 years ago.

“The situation has reached such extreme phase that it is at the crossroads of a war or peace, much less thinking of the resumption of the tour,” said a North Korean state agency in a report by Agence France-Presse.

However, in his clearest remarks yet that the South will not unilaterally resume its war with the North, President Lee on Friday said "we'll try to cooperate with the international community in taking necessary measures when the results are out," according to Yonhap news agency.

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