The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Politics

April 11, 2013

N.Korea calls zone closing temporary

SEOUL — North Korea called the closing of an industrial park jointly run with South Korea temporary, signaling a possible moderation in tone as the region remained on alert for a missile launch by the totalitarian state.

While blaming the South for this week's suspension of operations at the Kaesong complex north of the border, the move is "temporary," the official Korean Central News Agency said, citing an unidentified government spokesman. South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae called for dialogue between the two sides to resolve the issue.

North Korea has repeatedly said the region is on the brink of war since its February nuclear test prompted tighter United Nations sanctions and the United States and South Korea began joint drills last month. With both American and South Korean officials saying a missile test may be imminent, Kim Jong Un's regime may be trying to moderate tensions, analyst Kim Yong Hyun said.

"The KCNA statement can be read as a sign of the North trying to, at least for now, keep the current situation from getting any worse," said Kim, a North Korean studies professor at Dongguk University in Seoul. "Any firing of a North Korean missile is aimed at influencing the U.S. and the international community psychologically."

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel yesterday said North Korea has "been skating very close to a dangerous line" and should tone down its "bellicose rhetoric."

A North Korean organization today reiterated that the country is on a war footing and is ready to attack, and that its warheads are already programmed with target coordinates.

"Just pressing the button will be enough to turn the strongholds of the enemies into the sea of fire," the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement carried by KCNA.

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