After the United Nations resolved to impose new sanctions on North Korea after the isolated country went ahead with its nuclear testing despite international calls not to, it had started to cut off the last 3 direct lines connecting it with South Korea. It has cut the direct hotline to the United States military forces stationed in the South, as well as the Red Cross line that are often used by both governments. However, it had left the armed crossing between the two linked countries fully open.
Seoul officials said that almost 200 South Koreans and 166 vehicles that carried oil and other items drove into North Korea at a park close to the border on Thursday. It seems the North Korean authorities told the park’s management to grant access. Truck driver Park Chul-hee said that he was quite nervous at first but that “it looked the same as before when [he] went in there yesterday.” He added that Pyongyang soldiers were in combat fatigues in and around Kaesong. Furthermore, the 511 people scheduled to return today from the zone had already started crossing the border into the South, which is an indication that operations are normal both ways.
Breaking down the acts of Pyongyang, Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul said that while severing the hotlines is the least threatening act it can do, it is very symbolical and can escalate tensions while pressuring Seoul and Washington to make efforts to restart dialogue. North Korea periodically does that exact same thing, Yang said. “What else can they do? Actually start a war? Not answering the phone and saying the armistice is not valid any more, that’s what they can do and they’ve done this before.”
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