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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Thursday, October 18, 2018

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North Koreans skip work at Kaesong after Pyongyang rejects talks offer

Kaesong Industrial Complex

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North-South-Korean Border news

PYONGYANG / SEOUL - North Koreans have failed to report for work at Kaesong Industrial Complex, suspending one of the few points of co-operation between the Koreas. The North rejected an offer from South Korea to hold talks on the future of the joint Kaesong industrial complex.

The complex is a joint industrial park and there are more than 120 South Korean companies that operate there, employing 53,000 North Korean workers.

Pyongyang called the offer to hold talks an "empty, meaningless" act aimed at disguising invasion plans..

The South Korean Unification Ministry, which oversees relations with the North, said it was "regrettable" that Pyongyang had rejected the offer to hold talks, made last week by President Park Geun-hye, Reuters reports.

It said the offer would remain on the table.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said it was on guard against a possible missile launch to coincide with the Day of the Sun, the birth anniversary of Kim Il-Sung, the founding leader and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-Un, according to Reuters.

Last year, on Kim Il-Sung's birth centenary, North Korea had launched a rocket purportedly aimed at putting a satellite into orbit. The rocket failed shortly after take-off.

"North Korea is not believed to have launched a missile on the occasion of the Day of the Sun, of which today's is the 101st," South Korean ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a briefing.

"But the military is not easing up on its vigilance on the activities of the North's military with the view that they can conduct a provocation at any time."

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. remained "open to authentic and credible negotiations on denuclearization, but the burden is on Pyongyang," CNN reports.

Speaking at the end of a three-day trip to South Korea, China and Japan that focused on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Kerry said in Tokyo that North Korea "must take meaningful steps to show it will honor commitments it has already made" and the norms of international law.

"The world does not need more potential for war, so we will stand together. And we welcome China's strong commitment ... to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Kerry said.

"The stakes are far too high, and the global economy is far too fragile for anyone to allow these inherited problems to divide the region and inflame it," he added.

A North Korean official said there were two obstacles preventing the talks: South's Korea ongoing joint military exercises with the United States, and calls for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear activities.

"If the South is genuine about having talks it should first abandon the confrontational posture," the spokesman stated.

North Korea has announced the withdrawal of its 53,000 workers and the suspension of operations at Kaesong, amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The Korean Peninsula has been locked in a cycle of escalating military rhetoric following the participation of nuclear-capable US B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers in recent joint military exercises with South Korea.

Pyongyang has warned that if Washington and Seoul launch a preemptive attack, the conflict "will not be limited to a local war, but develop into an all-out war, a nuclear war."

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