Senior North Korean military officials are making a rare inspection of a joint North-South Korean industrial project. Pyongyang says unless it sees what it calls a change of "attitude" in South Korea, sharp restrictions on North-South contact will remain in effect.
Kaesong reductions symbolize Pyongyang's attitude shift
A senior North Korean official spent Thursday inspecting production facilities at the North-South industrial park in the North Korean city, Kaesong. Earlier this month, Pyongyang sharply reduced the number of South Korean managers allowed to remain at the project, which has long been seen as a symbol of North-South reconciliation.
Lieutenant-General Kim Yong Cheol has been meeting this week with South Koreans remaining in Kaesong. South Korean Unification Ministry Spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun says he has been passing on a message for Seoul.
He says, if there is no change of attitude by the South, current restrictions will not be lifted.
Border traffic sharply reduced
In addition to scaling back Kaesong's staffing, North Korea sharply restricted crossings of its border to the South and suspended daily freight train service by South Korean trains. North-South tourism projects are also on ice.
Kim, the South Korean spokesman, quotes Kim the North Korean lieutenant-general as saying the relationship between the Korea's is now strained and stands at a crossroads.
South Korean president defends business-like stance towards North
North Korea is angry at the administration of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who Pyongyang has labeled a "traitor" on many occasions. The North accuses Mr. Lee of violating previous North-South agreements which promise billions of dollars to the North in aid and massive infrastructure investments.
President Lee brought what he describes as a more "practical" and "business-like" view of aid to the North, when he took office in January. He says the transfer of South Korean public funds to North Korea must be more closely indexed to the North's cooperation on reducing its nuclear weapons and other key issues.
The North Korean military visit to Kaesong has fueled media speculation Pyongyang may be considering a total shutdown of the zone - a move that would cost the impoverished North millions of dollars annually.