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Terrorism & Security

North Korea scraps agreements with South

Pyongyang called its political and military deals with Seoul 'dead;' experts see the move as a cry for attention.

By / January 30, 2009

A pedestrian passes a fence carrying messages urging reunification of North and South Korea Friday in Imjingak, South Korea. North Korea's move Friday to scrap all agreements between the two countries has raised tensions on the peninsula.

Ahn Young-joon

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North Korea announced Friday that all agreements between it and South Korea had become "dead documents" in an apparent bid to refocus Seoul and Washington's attention on Pyongyang.

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The Associated Press reports that on Friday, Pyongyang accused South Korean President Lee Myung Bak of worsening relations between the two Koreas by adopting a hard-line position against the North.

[The North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea] warned that Lee's stance would only draw "a heavier blow and shameful destruction."
"The group of traitors has already reduced all the agreements reached between the north and the south in the past to dead documents," the committee in charge of inter-Korean affairs said early Friday in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang have increased since Mr. Lee ended the previous administration's "sunshine policy" of unconditional aid to North Korea. Lee's policy is meant to get concessions from Pyongyang, particularly in regards to North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The BBC adds that North Korea also criticized the South earlier this week over Seoul's appointment of Hyun In Taek as the new South Korean unification minister. Pyongyang said the appointment of Mr. Hyun was meant to increase hostilities between the Koreas. But despite the latest threats from the North, Seoul has responded calmly.

"Our government expresses deep regret," said Kim Ho-Nyoun, spokesman for South Korea's unification ministry, which handles cross-border affairs.
"We urge North Korea to accept our call for dialogue as soon as possible," he said.

In an analysis of the situation, Reuters writes that despite the hyperbole of North Korea's warnings, the end of the agreements that it cites means "very little."

The statement itself does not carry much weight because North Korea has cut off almost all contacts with the South over the past year in anger at Lee's tough stance. The North, which doesn't like to be ignored, has been lashing out at Lee for months, only to find its vitriolic barbs mostly ignored by Seoul. The latest statement may reflect its frustration. An armistice that marked the end of hostilities of the 1950-53 Korean War is not affected because South Korea was not a signatory.

Reuters notes that in order to further raise tensions, North Korea could opt for military action along the two countries' disputed Yellow Sea border. But Reuters adds that last time shots were exchanged between their two navies in 2002, North Korea was "badly outgunned" by South Korea's superior navy, and the technological divide between the two has only increased since then.

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