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May 14, 2021

North Korea blocks South workers from Kaesong zone

Washington says the U.S. won’t accept NKorea as a “nuclear state”, UN Secretary General says ‘crisis gone too far”.

North Korea has stopped South Koreans from crossing the border to work at the jointly run Kaesong industrial zone, for the first time since 2009, the BBC reports. Seoul said about 800 South Koreans who had stayed overnight at the complex were being allowed to return. Kaesong is a crucial revenue source for the North, which has not indicated how long the entry ban will last. The border into Kaesong is the last functioning crossing between the two Koreas, and the complex is the last significant symbol of co-operation. The industrial park is home to more than 120 factories that employ more than 50,000 North Koreans and several hundred managers from the South.  Permission is granted on a daily basis for workers to cross into the complex, where they can stay overnight. More than 850 South Koreans were at Kaesong when the ban was announced, and very few have returned. One South Korean worker who returned from the complex said some of his colleagues had been held up because they had no transport. North Korea’s decision Wednesday to prevent South Korean workers and managers from entering the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which sits on the North’s side of the border but houses operations of scores of South Korean companies, is a tangible sign of the tensions between the two sides. It’s also a move that could end up hurting Pyongyang financially, since Kaesong is considered to be an important source of hard currency for Kim’s regime.U.S. and South Korean officials have kept up their criticism of the North’s actions in recent days. According to CNN, John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, warned Tuesday evening that the United States will not accept North Korea as a “nuclear state.”

“The bottom line is simply that what Kim Jong Un is choosing to do is provocative. It is dangerous, reckless,” Kerry said during a joint briefing in Washington with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se. “And I reiterate again the United States will do what is necessary to defend ourselves and defend our allies, Korea and Japan,” Kerry added. “We are fully prepared and capable of doing so, and I think the DPRK understands that.”Kerry’s comments came hours after Pyongyang’s declaration that it would restart the reactor at its Yongbyon nuclear complex. The statement demonstrated Kim’s commitment to the North’s nuclear weapons program that the international community has tried to persuade it to abandon. The North Korean announcement was followed by a plea for calm from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is South Korean. “The current crisis has already gone too far,” he said in a statement from Andorra. “Nuclear threats are not a game. Aggressive rhetoric and military posturing only result in counteractions, and fuel fear and instability. On Tuesday evening, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Chang Wanquan, the Pentagon said.

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