UN leader calls for Korea talks on industrial zone

UN leader Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that North Korea should return to talks with the South on resuming operations at a joint industrial zone that is a rare symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.

Ban called for dialogue after South Korea gave the North 24 hours to return to talks or face "significant measures."

The suspension of operations at the Kaesong industrial zone by North Korea has become a touchstone for increased security tensions between the unpredictable North, and South Korea and the United States.

Widespread fears have been raised that Pyongyang could stage a new long-range missile or nuclear arms test.

"The secretary general remains seriously concerned about the suspension of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. He is particularly concerned about the economic and humanitarian implications of this suspension," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Ban has "taken note" of South Korea's call on Thursday for talks. "He sincerely hopes the operation of the complex can return to normal as soon as possible through dialogue," said Nesirky.

The UN leader, a former South Korean foreign minister, considers Kaesong to be "a successful example of inter-Korean cooperation which has promoted economic growth and served as a bridge between the two Koreas. He believes that this project should not be affected by political and security considerations," said Nesirky.