SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Thursday threatened to re-station troops at a stalled inter-Korean factory park located just across the tense border separating the two Koreas, as minor scuffles reportedly broke out between delegates from the rivals after failed talks meant to restart the complex.
Pyongyang has warned Seoul before that it would bring back the military units that were stationed at the North Korean border city of Kaesong before the factory park was set up there in 2004 during a previous period of detente between the rivals.
Analysts said the latest threat was an effort to pressure Seoul to agree to a quick reopening of the industrial complex, which provided badly needed hard currency to Pyongyang. The complex was shut in April amid dueling threats of war following U.N. sanctions against North Korea’s February nuclear test.
The talks Thursday, the sixth round of meetings this month, came as North Korea held ceremonies ahead of Saturday’s 60th anniversary of the Korean War’s end. The Korean Peninsula is still technically in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.
Pool reports from South Korean media stationed outside the closed-door meeting at Kaesong between the Koreas said frustrated North Koreans issued the warning directly to South Korean reporters after the talks ended without a breakthrough. The reports said that brief scuffles erupted as Seoul officials tried to stop North Koreans from talking to journalists.
The pool reports said the North Korean delegates also distributed documents about speeches and proposals they made during the talks with South Korea. South Korean officials tried to retrieve the documents from South Korean reporters, triggering protests from the reporters, the reports said.
South Korean officials took the North Korean delegates out of the room, and a North Korean delegate insulted South Korean officials, reportedly calling them bums and gangsters. Chief North Korean delegate Pak Chol Su told reporters that North Korea made “sincere efforts” to resume operations at the complex, according to the pool reports.
Later Thursday, South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk told reporters that Seoul would “make a grave decision” if North Korea doesn’t provide a guarantee that it won’t engineer future unilateral Kaesong shutdowns. He didn’t elaborate, but said he believes Kaesong’s fate is now at a “serious crossroads” after the end of Thursday’s talks.
Chief South Korean delegate Kim Kiwoong told reporters that there were big differences between the Koreas on the matter of Seoul’s desire for the guarantee.
Associated Press writer Elizabeth Shim contributed to this report.