Communication hotlines between two Koreas cut off

Seoul, Feb 12 (IANS) All communication hotlines between South Korea and North Korea have been cut-off after the shutdown of an inter-Korean factory park, Seoul’s defence ministry said on Friday.

Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said 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, Xinhua reported.

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

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

Pyongyang’s decision came in the wake of Seoul’s announcement on Wednesday to completely stop operations at the joint industrial zone as part of punitive measures after North Korea’s Sunday launch of a long-range rocket and the fourth nuclear test on January 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 North Korea’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 the 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 North Korea may redeploy armed forces to the now emptied Kaesong factory park, noting that no special moves by Pyongyang forces around Kaesong have been detected yet.

Kaesong, Pyongyang’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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