North Korea snapped the last remaining military hot lines with South Korea yesterday, accusing president Park Geun-hye of South Korea of continuing the same hard-line policy of her predecessor that was blamed by North for a prolonged chill in inter-Korean relations.
As tensions ran high over North's third nuclear test last month and ensuing UN sanctions, North Korea had already pulled the plug on Red Cross hot lines with South Korea as well as communication line with the American military command in South Korea.
However, the decision of the North to cut off military hot lines with South Korea yesterday was taken more seriously in Seoul because the two Koreas had used those four telephone lines to control daily cross-border traffic of workers and cargo travelling to the North Korean border town of Kaesong.
A joint industrial park at Kaesong, the last symbol of inter-Korean cooperation though, continued normal operations even amid escalating political tensions in recent years.
According to Seoul officials 887 South Korean workers were in Kaesong yesterday and the traffic was running normally both yesterday and in the morning today, while long lines of trucks crawled through the border crossing.
Meanwhile, Ms Park said during a briefing with her government's top diplomats and North Korea policy makers that in the event of a provocation by North Korea, South Korea needed to make sure that it got nothing but would pay the price, while if it kept its promises, the same should be done by the South.
She said "without rushing, and in the same way as bricks were laid one after the other, South-North relation building needed to be a step by step process, based on trust, and creation of sustainable peace."
New unification minister, Ryoo Kihl-jae, South Korea's point man on North Korea, later told reporters that his government was willing to consider lifting trade embargoes put in place by the North after the deadly sinking of a South Korean Navy ship in 2010, though not before North Korea took responsibility for the sinking, which killed 46 South Korean sailors.
Seoul blamed a North Korean torpedo attack, but the government in Pyongyang denied any involvement in it.
Ryoo said, South Korea kept its door open for dialogue.
However, yesterday, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, the North Korean counterpart to Ryoo's ministry, slammed Ms Park for warning a day earlier that the Pyongyang government could ensure its survival only when it stopped building nuclear weapons even as its people went hungry.
The committee said this time her remarks had gone beyond the line.
It added Park's recent comments were ''utterly shocking'' as against her earlier indications that she would not maintain the hard-line policy of her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, whom she replaced on 25 February.
Meanwhile, North Korea's suspected morphing of images depicting an amphibious hovercraft landing has led to a number of questions about what the regime in Pyongyang was up to.
The suspect photograph appeared to show a number of similar-looking US hovercraft landing on a beach somewhere in North Korea.
The images were released by Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency along with others of leader Kim Jong-un observing a live fire drill, to coincide with new threats to target the US that were inflammatory even by the North's standards.
According to experts, the image was likely to be of North Korean Kongbang-class hovercraft.
According to IHS Jane's, Pyongyang had around 130 of these in a number of variants, based on commercial technology sourced from the British, 1960s-era SR. N6 Winchester-class hovercraft.
The most common variants are the Kongbang II, with twin propellers able to carry up to 50 commandos at 50 knots, and the Kongbang III, having a single propeller that could take about 40 troops at 40 knots.
South Korean intelligence had earlier in 2007 reported that North Korea was introducing a new, larger class of hovercraft having a displacement of 170 tonnes and a length of 38 metres, fitted with a 57mm gun and a 30mm machine gun. Unlike the Kongbang class, which was intended for amphibious assaults, the new hovercraft was reportedly designed to take on South Korea's fast missile craft in coastal waters.
Experts say the motive behind North Korea's over-egging its military capabilities was reasonably self-evident and like other examples of military propaganda, the image was aimed at projecting a greater capability than actually existed.