SEOUL, May 16 (RIA Novosti) - The government of South Korea regrets Pyongyang’s refusal to discuss the removal of production materials and finished goods from the two nations' jointly-run Kaesong Industrial Complex, the Yonhap news agency said on Thursday.
Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said Pyongyang's unilateral criticism of the dialogue proposal has nothing to do with helping 123 South Korean companies affected by the closure of the industrial zone.
"Responsibility of the closure rests squarely with the North so it must take steps to adhere to past promises to protect the property of South Korean companies that have factories at Kaesong," Yonhap quoted the official as saying.
All operations at Kaesong were suspended on April 9, when Pyongyang pulled out all of its 53,000 staff. The complex, located just inside the North Korean border, is the only jointly-run industrial enterprise shared by the two nations, which have remained technically at war with each other since signing an armistice in 1953.
Meanwhile, Rodong Sinmun, an official paper of the ruling Workers' Party of North Korea, lashed at the recent naval exercises carried out earlier this month by South Korea and the United States south of the sea demarcation line.
"The naval exercises following Key Resolve and Foal Eagle can only be seen as part of broader efforts to stifle the DPRK [the North's official name] with military might," the paper said. "In the event of the final struggle with the U.S. the DPRK will prevail."
Tensions have risen sharply on the Korean Peninsula since December, when North Korea tested a long-range Taepodong 2 missile, and in February carried out its third nuclear test.
The UN responded with sanctions. The start of joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States last month further irritated the North, which threatened to carry out a nuclear attack on the US mainland, as well as on US forces in the region.