N Korea warns South of ‘catastrophic’ consequences

North Korea has warned of “unpredictable catastrophic consequences” for cross-border relations unless Seoul eases restrictions on visits by South Koreans to mourn late leader Kim Jong-Il.

Saying the world is in mourning for “a peerlessly great man”, the North on Saturday again blasted the South for its response to Kim’s death on December 17.

On Thursday Pyongyang announced it would open its borders to all South Koreans who wish to travel to Pyongyang to express condolences.

The Seoul government, which by law must authorise all contacts with Pyongyang, is allowing only two private delegations and is not sending an official team.

The South blames its neighbour for two deadly border incidents last year but has taken a generally conciliatory stance since Monday’s announcement of Kim’s death.

The government sent its sympathies to the North’s people, scrapped a controversial plan to display Christmas lights near the border and announced that South Koreans could send pre-approved condolence messages northwards.

‘Puppet authorities’
The North’s state media has expressed anger.

“The South Korean puppet authorities’ unethical acts bereft of elementary etiquette and compatriotism have touched off unanimous outrage and wrath among Koreans and all other people of the world,” a spokesperson for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea told the official news agency.

The committee is a state body overseeing cross-border relations.

“The South Korean authorities should bear in mind that their obstructions will entail unpredictable catastrophic consequences to the north-south relations,” the spokesperson said.

Seoul’s response to the death has been more conciliatory than when the late Kim’s father Kim Il-Sung died in 1994 but Pyongyang still bristles at it.

Despite the tough rhetoric, analysts generally do not expect shows of military force as the new regime headed by Kim’s son Jong-Un settles in. — AFP

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