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South Korea called on North Korea to come to the bargaining table, Thursday, to discuss the resumption of operations at the joint industrial park in Gaeseong.
Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-Jae said, “The normalization of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex should be dealt with through dialogue. To discuss things North Korea wants, the authorities there should step forward for talks.”
The minister added that Pyongyang’s decision to halt the operation of the complex “would not help the future of both Koreas,” and urged the North to take “responsible steps.”
Asked whether his statement was an official request for talks, Ryoo said it was an official clarification that all inter-Korean problems should be “resolved through dialogue.”
The statement comes as all operations at the joint complex, the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation, came to a full stop Tuesday when no North Koreans reported to work. Pyongyang had issued a warning on this the previous day.
About 300 South Koreans are still in the park ― the North will allow them to leave but will not admit any replacements. The industrial complex, which opened in 2004, combines South Korean capital and technology with cheap North Korean labor. About 53,000 North Korean workers were employed by 123 South Korean companies before the suspension of operations.
Meanwhile, tensions on the peninsula are heightening as South Korea and the United States brace for a possible missile launch by North Korea. The reclusive nation is moving several mobile missile launchers on its east coast, according to intelligence sources.
According to the sources, the North has moved two Musudan intermediate-range missiles, which had been concealed in a shed in the eastern port city of Wonsan, in and out of the facility. Four or five wheeled vehicles, suspected to be so-called transporter erector launchers, were also spotted being moved around South Hamgyeong Province.
The South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command declared a “Watchcon 2” status Wednesday, up one level from normal conditions, to step up monitoring and increase the number of staff on emergency standby.
Seoul officials say there are high chances that Pyongyang could fire off a missile around April 15 to mark the anniversary of the birth of its late founder Kim Il-sung, the current ruler Kim Jong-un's grandfather. Last year, the North unsuccessfully conducted a rocket launch days before the centenary of Kim’s birth.
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told lawmakers that there was a very high probability North Korea would launch medium-range missiles at any time, with the timing depending on a political decision.