South Korea said it is suspending all activities at an industrial complex it operates jointly with North Korea, in response to the North's recent nuclear test and rocket launch.
Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo told reporters Wednesday that Seoul is taking the action to prevent Pyongyang from using the proceeds from the Kaesong Industrial Complex to fund its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development programs.
"The fact that this situation continues without any changes does not mean that the status quo [will be maintained] but rather means that North Korea's nuclear capability becomes heightened, which could lead to an atrocious disaster.If North Korea is left as it is with its nuclear and missile developments, [the situation] could lead to the fundamental imbalance and threatening of not only the Korean peninsula but also the East Asian security region.Also, the countries within this region will be forced to take action for their own survival and security.And there is a concern that this could lead to the nuclear domino phenomenon," he added.
Pyongyang informed of decision
Hong said North Korea has been informed of the decision to shut down the Kaesong industrial park, located about 10 kilometers across the border in North Korea.All South Korean managers based at the park are being summoned home.
The park first opened in 2004 as a symbol of cross-border cooperation and reconciliation.About 124 South Korean companies operate in Kaesong and employ more than 53,000 North Korean workers.The park has been a source of badly-needed hard currency for the impoverished North but has been shut down before — the first time in 2013, when Pyongyang withdrew all of its workers and shut down the complex for five months during a period of heightened cross-border tensions.
South Korean vehicles returning from North Korea's joint Kaesong Industrial Complex pass the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, that has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, South Korea, Jan. 7, 2016.
Japan sanctions imminent
Meanwhile, Japan announced Wednesday that it will impose its own set of economic sanctions on North Korea in response to the rocket launch and nuclear tests.
The government has decided to impose stern sanctions on North Korea.We will cooperate closely with the international community in order to resolve the abductions, nuclear and missile issues," said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe following a meeting of the country's National Security Council.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the measures include a complete ban on visits by North Korean ships to Japanese ports, re-entry ban on foreign residents in Japan who are also nuclear or missile engineers if they travel to North Korea, and a ban on remittances of money to North Korea.
North Korea launched a long-range rocket Sunday and placed what it described as an "Earth observation satellite" into orbit.The launch was condemned by the international community as a violation of United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang for previous tests of long-range ballistic missiles.
Sunday's launch came a month after the North carried out its fourth nuclear test.