All communication hotlines between S. Korea, DPRK cut off

SEOUL: All of communication hotlines between South Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) have been in a state of complete cut-off after the shutdown of an inter-Korean factory park, Seoul’s defense ministry said Friday.

Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun told a regular press briefing that all communication hotlines linking the two sides have been blocked as Pyongyang cut off the lines on Thursday following the shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Zone.

Two military hotlines had been running between the two sides in the western and eastern regions, but the eastern hotline was already closed in a forest fire in 2013.

The telephone and fax lines in the western region were cut off from Thursday as the DPRK decided to shut down the joint factory park in its border city of Kaesong, Moon said.

Pyongyang’s decision came in the wake of Seoul’s Wednesday announcement to completely stop operations at the joint industrial zone as part of punitive measures to the DPRK’s Sunday launch of a long-range rocket and the fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6.

Two communication channels for Red Cross officials and those in charge of inter-Korean affairs between the two sides were also closed at the truce village of Panmunjom, the spokesman said.

The communication hotline between South Korea’s second fleet command and the DPRK’s west fleet command had already been closed off long ago, Moon said.

Concerns surged about possible military clashes between the two sides across the heavily armed border as all of communication channels that can help prevent military skirmishes disappeared all of a sudden.

Moon said the South Korean military was preparing for a possibility that the DPRK may re- deploy armed forces to the now- emptied Kaesong factory park, noting that no special moves of DPRK forces around Kaesong have been detected yet.

Kaesong, the DPRK’s third-biggest city, is located just 10 km north of the inter-Korean land border and some 40 km north of South Korea’s capital Seoul.  

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