North Korea cuts off Red Cross hotline to South Korea
South Korean officials claim that the North failed to answer two calls made on the peace hotline, following military drills with the US on Sunday.
This appears to confirm threats made last week by North Korea to end the 60 year armistice and close the hotline set up after the end of the Korean War.
This move will have ramped up regional tensions, which were already high. North Korea has been angered by the US performing joint military drills with its Southern neighbour and ended the ceasefire after UN sanctions went through unanimously last week.
The fresh sanctions were in response to North Korea’s latest round of successful nuclear testing. US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said in a statement: “The entire world stands firm in our commitment to the de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.”
Rhetoric has escalated on both sides, with North Korea’s foreign ministry saying in a public address on the KCNA news agency: “Since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war we are exercising our right to pre-emptive nuclear attack against the headquarters of the aggressor, in order to protect our supreme interest.”
The Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, responded: “I don’t think the regime in Pyongyang wants to commit suicide, they must surely know that would be the result [of attacking Washington]”.
It is believed that North Korea does not have the capability for a strike against the US and is instead agitating for a new formal peace treaty and the removal of nearly 30,000 US troops from within the borders of its Southern neighbour.
The move to close the hotline signals the North’s intent to end all non-aggression acts with South Korea, in place since 1953. This leaves the security and stability of the region in serious doubt.