SEOUL - North Korea on Friday said it issued an ultimatum to South Korea that it will tear down South Korean-made hotels and other facilities at the North's Diamond Mountain resort if the South continues to ignore its demands to come and clear them out.
The North Korean statement came weeks after leader Kim Jong Un visited the site and ordered the demolition of South Korean properties he described as "shabby" and "unpleasant-looking" while vowing that the North would redevelop the site on its own.
For months, North Korea has expressed frustration over the South's unwillingness to defy U.S.-led international sanctions against the North and resume South Korean tours at the site.
The North later formally demanded the South Koreans come to Diamond Mountain at an agreed-upon date to clear out their facilities and proposed an exchange of documents to work out details.
South Korean tours to Diamond Mountain were a major symbol of cooperation between the Koreas and a valuable cash source for the North's broken economy before the South suspended them in 2008 after a North Korean guard fatally shot a South Korean tourist.
South Korea has said it will prioritize protecting its property rights over the facilities and seek "creative solutions" to the problem based on political considerations and inter-Korean dialogue. But the North has so far rejected South Korean calls for face-to-face discussions or sending a delegation of government officials and businesspeople to inspect the site.
'No room' for South Korea
In the new statement, North Korea ridiculed the South over "begging us to let them stay even at a corner of the mountain" and participate in future tourism programs after halting the joint tours for more than a decade "in fear of the U.S."
"On November 11 we sent an ultimatum, warning that if the (South Korean) authorities persist in their useless assertion, we will take it as an abandonment of the withdrawal, and take resolute measure for unilaterally pulling down the facilities. However, they have remained answerless until today," the statement said.
"We will develop Mt. Kumgang to be the world-renowned tourist resort with responsibility and in our own way as its owner for the sake of the nation and posterity. There is no room for (South Korea) to find its place there."
The South Korean government didn't immediately comment on the statement.
In a summit last September in Pyongyang, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed to restart South Korean tours to Diamond Mountain and normalize operations at an inter-Korean factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, voicing optimism that sanctions could end and allow such projects.
Kim raised the subject again during his New Year's speech this year, saying that Pyongyang was ready to restart the projects "without any precondition" while making a nationalistic call for stronger cooperation between the Koreas.
But without a breakthrough in larger nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, the inter-Korean economic projects remain shelved. North Korea in recent months has suspended virtually all diplomacy and cooperation with the South while demanding Seoul break away from its ally Washington and restart inter-Korean economic activities.