North Korea announced Friday it is scrapping all political and military agreements with South Korea, accusing Seoul of pushing relations to the brink of war.
The communist state said all agreements on ending confrontation would be nullified, including one covering their Yellow Sea border — the scene of bloody naval clashes in 1999 and 2002.
The statement from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea further raised tensions after months of frosty relations.
It comes less than two weeks after the North’s army threatened an “all-out confrontational posture” against Seoul.
“The confrontation between the north and the south in the political and military fields has been put to such extremes that inter-Korean relations have reached the brink of a war,” Friday’s statement said.
It blasted the conservative South Korean government of President Lee Myung-Bak for “ruthlessly scrapping” pacts reached at summits in 2000 and 2007.
“The group of traitors has already reduced all the agreements reached between the north and the south in the past to dead documents,” the committee said in the statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
“Under such situation it is self-evident that there is no need for the DPRK (North Korea) to remain bound to those north-south agreements.”
The North has also staked out a tough position in nuclear disarmament negotiations with the United States and four regional partners. The talks are stalled by disagreements over inspections of the North’s atomic activities.
Pyongyang, which staged a nuclear test in 2006, has said it may keep its atomic weapons even after ties are established with Washington, as long as any US nuclear threat remains.
Some analysts believe the North is raising tensions to ensure it remains a diplomatic priority for the new Obama administration.
The latest statement “seems to be an attempt to draw attention from South Korea and the US as its previous sabre-rattling has drawn no major reactions,” a senior Seoul official told Yonhap news agency on condition of anonymity.
The unification ministry, which handles cross-border ties, said it would make a comment later.
The North has never recognised the Northern Limit Line, a sea border drawn unilaterally by US-led United Nations forces after the 1950-1953 war.
Although the line has served as a de facto border, North Korea has frequently demanded it be redrawn — a move the South has consistently rejected.
Six South Korean soldiers were killed in a naval clash in June 2002 in the area, while the North’s casualties were believed to be heavier. In June 1999 a similar skirmish killed dozens of North Korean sailors.
The two sides have remained technically at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended without a peace treaty, but have signed a variety of agreements over the years — notably under Lee’s two liberal presidential predecessors.
Lee, who took office a year ago, laid down a firmer line linking major economic aid to nuclear disarmament. He also said he would review his predecessors’ two summit pacts.
The North has blasted him as a “traitor.” Last December it expelled hundreds of South Koreans from a joint industrial estate in the North and tightened border controls.
On January 17 its army General Staff, threatening a “confrontational” posture, warned it would not allow intrusions by South Korean vessels into the disputed Yellow Sea waters.
However, leader Kim Jong-Il was quoted last week as saying he hopes to push ahead with the six-nation talks and does not want to raise tensions with the South.