US-Kaesong situation

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, April 3 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. government criticized North Korea Wednesday for denying South Koreans access to the joint industrial park in Kaesong.

"We consider this a regrettable move," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, briefing reporters. "We think that the ban ought to be lifted."

On Wednesday, Seoul time, North Korea banned South Korean workers from entering the complex, six miles north of the heavily fortified border with the South.

It was the latest action by Pyongyang to escalate tensions.

Nuland said, however, it's not the first time the North has blocked entry into the site.

"It, from our perspective, always works to the detriment of North Korea, first and foremost, given the number of North Koreans who are employed there and the opportunity to make money in the economy," she said.

It shows North Korea is continuing to violate international obligations and to flout international law while the door remains open for choosing a different path, she added.

The Kaesong complex is a rare remaining symbol of rapprochement between the two Koreas. It provides the two sides with a standing channel for communications, as they exchange the lists of workers' names and discuss other conditions for operating the facilities.

Around 50,000 North Korean are employed by some 120 South Korean firms there.

Many have hailed it as a model for benefiting from the North's cheap labor and the South's capital.

It is still unclear whether the North will eventually move to shutter the industrial town, although it threatened to do so if necessary.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>