North Korea dismissed on Sunday the South’s offer for dialogue on the future of the Kaesong joint industrial zone, calling the offer an “empty” political gesture.
The North announced the withdrawal of its 53,000 workers and the suspension of operations at Kaesong at the beginning of the week, as military tensions on the Korean peninsula soared.
Seoul on Thursday called for Pyongyang to “come to the dialogue table” to revive the complex, a rare symbol of cross-border economic co-operation and crucial hard currency source for the North.
But Pyongyang dismissed the offer by the South’s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae as a “meaningless” and “cunning” gesture aimed at concealing its true intentions to invade the North.
“We found the offer an empty, meaningless act,” a spokesman of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in an interview with the state media KCNA.
The official cited the South’s ongoing joint military drill with its ally, the United States, and a call for the North to give up its nuclear ambitions as obstacles preventing talks.
“If the South is genuine about having talks...it should first abandon the confrontational posture,” the spokesman said.
Neither side has allowed previous crises to significantly affect the complex, which was built in 2004 and produces goods ranging from shoes to watches and is seen as a bellwether for stability on the Korean peninsula.
Tensions have been running high after a recent series of apocalyptic threats from the North in response to fresh UN sanctions imposed after it staged a long-range rocket launch and a third nuclear test.