North Korea said on Friday it was ditching a nonaggression pact and all other peace agreements with South Korea, a move which the South's prime minister said could be timed to coincide with Barack Obama taking over as U.S. president.
The isolated nation also said it will no longer respect a disputed sea border with the South, raising the prospect for an armed clash along the Yellow Sea boundary - the scene of deadly skirmishes between the two navies in 1999 and 2002. South Korea said it regretted the North's latest move and warned it won't tolerate any attempt to violate the border.
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"There is neither way to improve (relations) nor hope to bring them on track," said the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea.
"The confrontation between the north and the south in the political and military fields has been put to such extremes that the inter-Korean relations have reached the brink of a war," Reuters news agency quoted the committee’s statement as saying.
North Korea's KCNA news agency criticized South Korean President Lee Myung-bak over the appointment of a new minister in charge of relations on the peninsula, saying he was an architect of the government's "undisguised policy for confrontation with the DPRK (North Korea)."
Analysts said Pyongyang's threats could signal it is preparing for an armed confrontation, but only as a way of ratcheting up the pressure on Seoul to get the neighbor to soften its hard-line stance - and attracting Obama's attention.
"This signals that North Korea will stage a provocation" - probably near the maritime border, Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University, told the Associated Press. N. Korea could then use the threat of a clash to pressure Seoul to change course, said Yang Moo-jin, an expert at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies.
Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos, South Korean PM Han Seung-soo said he hoped the North would hold dialogue rather than make threats. Asked whether the timing was tied to Obama's inauguration, he said: "I am sure that the inauguration of the Obama must have had some impact on the thinking of North Korea." -- Source