N. Korea blames South's leader for Kaesong closure

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea on Thursday renewed a threat to permanently close its Kaesong joint industrial zone with South Korea, blaming the "confrontation" policies of the South's new president, Park Geun Hye.

Pyongyang announced the withdrawal of its 53,000 workers and the suspension of operations at Kaesong at the beginning of this week, as military tensions on the Korean peninsula soar.

President Park, who was sworn in at the end of February, described the move as "very disappointing" and warned the North it would severely impact the trust of future investors.

"Needless to say Kaesong industrial district will cease to exit should the Park Geun Hye regime continue pursuing confrontation," 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," a bureau spokesman said.

During her presidential campaign, Ms Park had said she would be more flexible in dealing with the North than her predecessor, who took a hardline stance toward Pyongyang.

But the North's recent nuclear tensions sparked a cycle of escalating tensions that have put rapprochement on the far back burner.

The bureau spokesman said South Korean "warmongering" had been responsible for the decision to suspend the activity of the 123 South Korean firms in Kaesong, which lies 10km inside the North.

Pyongyang had been incensed 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 - a crucial source of hard currency for the impoverished state.

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