North Korea has re-established a key military phone line with
South Korea, after severing it nearly two weeks ago. That makes it easier for
the two sides to conduct simple communications. However, tensions remain high
prior to the North's promised missile launch.
South Korean officials say
North Korea informed them Friday of plans to reconnect a military phone line at
the heavily armed border between the two countries.
The North severed the
line earlier this month in protest of two weeks of annual military drills
between South Korea and the United States. The drills wrapped up Friday, and the
inter-Korean phone lines are expected to be operational by Saturday.
lack of a phone line made it difficult to coordinate limited border crossings by
South Koreans who manage a joint North-South industrial park in the North Korean
city of Kaesong.
Pyongyang compounded the inconvenience by restricting
border crossings by South Korean managers. As of Friday, a group of South
Koreans scheduled to cross into Kaesong were still waiting for a letter of
approval to be hand-delivered across the border.
South Korean Vice
Minister of Unification, Hong Yang-ho, chastised the North for its interference
in Kaesong's operations.
He says many companies in Kaesong have
experienced economic losses, and have begun to worry about issues of personal
safety. He says North Korea should take responsibility for the losses due to
its unreasonable behavior.
All of this is happening against the backdrop
of an impending North Korean launch of a long-range rocket, which Pyongyang has
promised will take place within weeks.
In a U.S. Senate hearing Thursday,
the Commander of U.S. Forces in South Korea said the impending launch poses a
serious regional threat. Analysts say the technology of launching a satellite -
which is what North Korea says it is doing - is nearly identical to the
technology of ballistic missiles that can carry warheads.
At the same
Senate hearing, the commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific region, Navy
Admiral Timothy Keating, expressed confidence in the U.S. ability to shoot down
a North Korean missile. Neither the U.S. nor Japan have ruled out such a
shootdown, which North Korea says will result in "war."
James Delaney was
a former Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Seoul, and is now a
private consulatant. He recommends making the North prove its launch is actually
"If the North Koreans want to launch something that they
declare is a satellite, then they have to allow an international inspection to
determine that it is a satellite, otherwise we[the United States] will shoot it
down," Delaney said. "That's my hypothetical as to how one would deal with that
level of concern."
South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted a defense
ministry spokesman Friday as saying Seoul may be close to increasing its
participation in a U.S.-led anti-proliferation campaign. He says the move would
be a protest of the North's missile activities.