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North Korea cuts another tie to South; UN says country 'cannot go on like this'

Lee Jin-Man / AP

A South Korean worker returns with electronic products from North Korea's Kaesong industrial park, which was operated jointly between the two nations. On Monday, the North said it was withdrawing its workers from the park and suspending all operations there.

North Korea ratcheted up its talk of war Monday by announcing that it was withdrawing its workers from the Kaesong industrial park, which had been run jointly with the South.

"The DPRK will withdraw all its employees from the zone. It will temporarily suspend the operations in the zone and examine the issue of whether it will allow its existence or close it," the government's official news agency, KCNA, quoted Kim Yang Gon, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, as saying.

The North added that "how the situation will develop in the days ahead will entirely depend on the attitude" of South Korean leaders. While that wording might seem to indicate that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could be placated by the South with diplomacy, such statements from the North are common and have not been followed by attempts to negotiate.

Last week, the North stopped allowing South Korean workers into the industrial park as it increased its war rhetoric. Monday's statement called the park a "theater of confrontation."

As North Korea releases propaganda videos showing dogs attacking effigies of the South Korean defense minister, South Korean officials are preparing their citizens for the worst, issuing pamphlets outlining what to do in case of a nuclear attack. NBC's Richard Engel reports.

Such talk has sparked strong reaction globally.

Army Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, on Monday canceled a trip to Washington to testify before Congress on budget matters. The decision was considered "a prudent measure" given the "ongoing tension on the peninsula," according to a military statement.

In a visit to The Hague, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed his concern Monday, particularly about reports that the North planned to carry out another nuclear test in violation of Security Council resolutions.

"I have been repeatedly urging the DPRK to refrain from taking any further provocative measures," Ban said in a news conference, referring to the country by its formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "This [would be a] provocative measure."

"The DPRK cannot go on like this, confronting and challenging the authority of the Security Council and directly challenging the whole international community," he added.

Confrontation worse than Chernobyl?
On Friday, North Korea contacted embassies and said it could not guarantee their safety after April 10 in the event of a confrontation.

The cryptic communique was followed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying that Moscow was in close contact with the United States, China, South Korea and Japan over a request by the North to consider the possibility of evacuating their embassies, according to Russian news agencies.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Friday that North Korea’s actions were “part of an escalating pattern of hot rhetoric.”

NBC's Jim Maceda reports from the Korean Peninsula where tensions are ratcheting up following aggressive statements made by North Korea's government.

“We’ve seen this sort of pattern in the past,” she said. “What seems to be somewhat different is the level of the rhetoric and the pace of provocation.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking Monday at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Hannover, said Russia was "worried about the escalation on the Korean Peninsula," according to ITV News, NBC's British partner.

"If, God forbid, something happens, Chernobyl, which we all know a lot about, may seem like a child's fairy tale," Putin said. "Is there such a threat or not? I think there is. I would urge everyone to calm down."

Putin also praised the U.S. for postponing the test of an intercontinental ballistic missile in California.

"I think we should all thank the U.S. leadership for this step," Putin said. "I hope it will be noticed by our North Korean partners, that certain conclusions will be drawn, everyone will calm down and start joint work to ease the situation."

There was no immediate U.S. reaction to the North's statement.

Related:

China warns against troublemaking on Korean Peninsula

South Korea backs off statement about possible missile launch

Scenarios: What happens if North Korea gets out of hand?

 

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