World Bulletin/News Desk
Reclusive North Korea is to cut the last channel of communications with the South because war could break out at "any moment", it said on Wednesday, days of after warning the United States and South Korea of nuclear attack.
The move is the latest in a series of bellicose threats from North Korea in response to new U.N. sanctions imposed after its third nuclear test in February and to "hostile" military drills under way joining the United States and South Korea.
The North has already stopped responding to calls on the hotline to the U.S. military that supervises the heavily armed Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the Red Cross line that has been used by the governments of both sides.
"Under the situation where a war may break out at any moment, there is no need to keep north-south military communications which were laid between the militaries of both sides," the North's KCNA news agency quoted a military spokesman as saying.
"There do not exist any dialogue channel and communications means between the DPRK and the U.S. and between the north and the south."
The Pentagon condemned the latest escalation in North Korean rhetoric, with spokesman George Little calling Pyongyang's declaration "yet another provocative and unconstructive step."
The U.S. military announced on March 15 it was bolstering missile defences in response to threats from the North, including a threat to conduct a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States.
Despite the shrill rhetoric, few believe North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), will risk starting a full-out war.
North and South Korea are still technically at war anyway after their 1950-53 civil conflict ended with an armistice, not a treaty, which the North says it has since torn to pieces.
The "dialogue channel" is used on a daily basis to process South Koreans who work in the Kaesong industrial project where 123 South Korean firms employ more than 50,000 North Koreans to make household goods.
About 120 South Koreans are stationed at Kaesong at any one time on average.
It is the last remaining joint project in operation between the two Koreas after South Korea cut off most aid and trade in response to Pyongyang's shooting of a South Korean tourist and the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel blamed on the North.
Kaesong is one of North Korea's few hard currency earners, producing $2 billion a year in trade with the South, and Pyongyang is unlikely to close it except as a last resort.
The North's military spokesman representing its "supreme command" did not mention Kaesong, which has suffered temporary shutdowns before.
The South's government said it would take steps to ensure the safety of the workers at Kaesong. It did not elaborate.
US flies stealth bombers over South Korea
Meanwhile, the United States said two nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers flew "deterrence" missions over South Korea on Thursday, defying threats of retribution from North Korea against ongoing war games, media reported.
It came shortly after the North severed its last-remaining military hotline with South Korea and put its rocket units on combat status with a threat to target US bases in the Pacific region.
The two B-2s, from Whiteman Air Force base in Missouri, flew the 13,000 mile (20,800 kilometre) round-trip in a "single continuous mission", dropping dummy ordnance on a target range in the South, the US military said in a statement.
Junta leader insists won’t follow example of UK’s Cameron by resigning if Thais reject draft charter in Aug. 7 referendum
- Police believe suspects behind Sunday’s car bombing in Muslim south were involved in blast at mall car park last year
Second finance minister resigns for ‘personal reasons’ as PM announces 3rd cabinet reshuffle since 2013 election
Activist calls for transparency over why officials were transferred in province notorious for refugee rights abuses, graft
SKorean leader addresses concerns on internal division as government highlights importance of firm handling with North Korea
The southern area of Thailand is plagued by insurgency, although the shooting not thought to be related to the insurgency
A Singapore Airlines plane en route to MIlan turned back to Singapore two hours into journey after reported engine problem
It has been one year since the financial scandal has rocked Malaysia with Prime Minister Najib Razak standing taller than despite an an avalanche of investigations, outmanoeuvering opponents, and boosting his control with a pair of recent election wins.
Officials said the strikes began in the last week and were against extremist targets in the southern part of the country.
The poll comes as Australia attempts to rebalance its economy away from a once-in-a-generation mining boom stymied by tumbling commodities prices.
More than 840 others injured after extreme weather conditions battered eastern city of Yangcheng
Driver detained after bus carrying 56 people bursts into flames after crashing into guardrails of highway in central Hunan
Philippine army says 7 sailors abducted earlier this week handed over by kidnap-for-ransom gang to ISIL-linked militants
Blast damages several roadside vending stalls, shatters windows of nearby buildings including a school
Jailed opposition leader says parties must end internal disputes if they are to offer strong alternative to ruling alliance
North Sumatran capital of Medan teaches blind students love of Islamic holy book through braille