North Korea’s threats of war topped the agenda of the foreign ministers’ talks in London on Wednesday and Thursday.
In a communiqué issued after the meeting, foreign ministers from the US, Britain, France,Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia urged North Korea to “refrain from further provocative acts”.
“They condemned DPRK’s (North Korea’s) current aggressive rhetoric and confirmed that this will only serve to further isolate the DPRK,” it said.
South Korea had earlier called for negotiations with North Korea over the future of the Kaesong joint industrial zone which the North has threatened to shut down permanently after suspending operations.
“Normalisation of the Kaesong industrial complex must be solved through dialogue,” the South’s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-Jae said on Thursday.
“I urge North Korea to come to the dialogue table.”
North Korea at the beginning of the week announced the withdrawal of its 53,000 workers and the suspension of operations at Kaesong, as military tensions on the Korean peninsula soared.
A rare symbol of cross-border economic cooperation, Kaesong is a crucial hard-currency source for the impoverished North, through taxes and revenues, and from its cut of the workers’ wages, but Pyongyang seemed unconcerned by how much effect the closure of Kaesong would have on North Korea’s economy.
There are 123 South Korean companies operating in Kaesong, which lies 10km inside North Korea. Turnover in 2012 was reported at $469.5m with accumulated turnover since 2004 standing at $1.98bn.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s new president, Park Geun-Hye has described the suspension of operations as “very disappointing”, but North Korea said on Thursday that her administration was personally responsible.
“Needless to say Kaesong industrial district will cease to exist should the Park Geun-Hye regime continue pursuing confrontation,” a spokesman for the North’s Bureau for Central Guidance to the Development of the Special Zone said.
“The current powerholder in the South can never be able to shake off responsibility for having Kaesong, which survived even the traitor Lee Myung-Bak’s term in office, all but closed.”
During her presidential campaign, Park had said she would be more flexible in dealing with the North than her predecessor Lee, who took a hardline stance towards Pyongyang.
The North Korean spokesman said South Korean “war-mongering” had been responsible for the decision to shut Kaesong.
North Korea had been angered by Defence Minister Kim Kwan-Jin’s remarks that the South had a “military” contingency plan to ensure the safety of its people working in the zone.
It was also angered by South Korean media and analysts saying that the North would not dare to close Kaesong, and has decided to cut the South’s bluff.