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North Korea Threatens Border Closure to South


North Korea is warning it will close off its border to the South, as of December 1. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.

North Korean military officials read the warning over the telephone, Wednesday, to their South Korean counterparts.

The statement - carried by the North Korean central news agency - threatens to "severely restrict or cut off" border crossings. Pyongyang accuses South Korea of "going beyond the danger level, despite repeated warnings."

North Korea has warned the South on several recent occasions - urging Seoul to stop groups from launching balloon-borne leaflets which criticize the North's leader, Kim Jong Il. Pyongyang also accuses the South of failing to uphold previous agreements.

South Korean Unification Ministry Spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun called for the two Korea's to sit down and talk. He calls the border closure warning "regrettable" and says, if North Korea follows through, there will be a negative impact on inter-Korean relations.

North and South Korea remain technically at war. The North invaded the South in 1950. Only a temporary armistice halted three years of fighting.

Since a historic 2000 summit, North-South border crossings have been more frequent - especially to support a South Korean-funded joint industrial zone in the North. It remains unclear whether North Korea will prevent South Korean managers and raw materials from reaching the zone, Kaesong.

Kim Seong-bae, an analyst with the Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul, says he thinks a full border closure would be a mistake on the North's part.

He says sealing the border completely would amount to shutting down the Kaesong complex, which he says would entail huge expense and inconvenience for the North. He says the border move could also sour the atmosphere for improvements in the North's relations with the incoming American administration.

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