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North Korea moves away from reconciliation

SEOUL, South Korea — In a reversal of recent progress toward reconciliation on the divided Korean Peninsula, North Korea said Monday that it would ban South Korean tourists from the ancient city of Kaesong and "selectively expel" South Koreans working in a joint industrial complex there starting Dec. 1.

The North also said it planned to shut down the only train service with South Korea, idling the freight train that makes a daily round trip between Kaesong and Seoul, the South's capital 45 miles to the south.

If North Korea carries out its expulsion threats, operations will be seriously disrupted at the Kaesong Industrial Park.

North Korea issued the threats even as it agreed to hold six-nation talks in Beijing on Dec. 8 with South Korea and other regional powers seeking to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs.

North Korea is refusing to allow nuclear samples to be taken out of the country for testing. The North will stick to that stance in hopes of using it as leverage in negotiating with the administration of President-elect Obama, analysts say.

Relations between the two Koreas have soured since February, when Lee Myung Bak, a conservative, became South Korea's president. Lee has expressed skepticism about the billions of dollars in investment promised to North Korea by his two liberal predecessors and irritated impoverished North Korea by refusing to ship food aid unless its government asked for it.

North Korea warned Monday that the actions it was announcing were only a "first stage." Analysts and officials in Seoul feared that North Korea would attempt to extract concessions from Lee by gradually strangling the operations at Kaesong.

North Korea moves away from reconciliation 11/24/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:21am]
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