01/30/2009, 00.00
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Pyongyang scraps political and military accords with South Korea

According to the north’s communist regime the two nations are “on the brink of war”. Seoul seeks to calm tensions and restore dialogue. Analysts see Pyongyang’s move an attempt to gain greater weight in negotiations with the US. But the possibility of an inter-Korean war is not excluded.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – North Korea has scrapped all political and military agreements with South Korea and accuses Seoul of hostile intent.  According to Pyongyang the hard-line policies of Lee Myung-bak have pushed the neighbouring nations “to the brink of war” and it has not ruled out the possibility of “imminent naval clashes” along the Northern Limit Line, the western marine border that has long been a source of tension between the two nations.

 “All the agreed points concerning the issue of putting an end to the political and military confrontation between the North and the South will be nullified," the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said, adding that the situation had arrived at a point where there was "neither way to improve [relations] nor hope to bring them on track”. The document arrives shortly after an official meeting between the North’s dictator Kim Jong-il and a high level Chinese diplomat, during which the “dear leader” declared he did not want to see “tensions emerge on the Korean peninsula”.

Seoul is trying to calm tensions expressing its “regret” at the communist government’s announcement and calling for “dialogue”. “Our government expresses deep regret - said Kim Ho-Nyoun, spokesman for South Korea's unification ministry, which handles cross-border affairs - We urge North Korea to accept our call for dialogue as soon as possible”. Further fomenting tensions between the two nations was this week’s nomination of Hyun In-taek, professor of international relations at Korea University and considered a “hawk” in his field, to lead the Unification Ministry. It was a strong sign from South Korean president Lee, that he has no intention of backtracking on the issue of the North’s nuclear ambitions or the threat that the communist regime presents.  Seoul has always maintained that the food and economic aid depend on the dismantling of the North’s nuclear program.

Some analysts believe that Pyongyang is trying to build up tensions with the South in order to give itself more negotiating power with the new US administration, under Barak Obama. A more pessimistic analysis suggests that the rising tension does raise the possibility of small-scale military clashes.

Since 1953, the year in which the war between the two Koreas officially ended, there has never been the official signing of a formal peace accord, but over time relations between the two nations had improved: in 2000 joint economic projects were started and many families, divided since the war,  were reunited through cross border visits.

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