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North Korea says will unilaterally remove South Korean facilities at Mt Kumgang if South insists on talks

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SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Friday that it had sent South Korea an “ultimatum” on Monday about North Korea’s Mt Kumgang tourist resort, saying that it will unilaterally remove South Korea’s facilities there if Seoul insists on talks about the issue.

South Korea had proposed talks with North Korea on how to handle its facilities in the North’s resort, once a rare example of cooperation between the Koreas, which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said last month he wants removed amid cooled inter-Korean relations.

North Korea had said they wanted to discuss the removal “by writing”, not by talks, but South Korea, while proposing talks, said they will seek a “creative solution” and make the protection of South Korean assets a priority.

“We sent an ultimatum on Nov. 11 that if the South Korean authorities continue to insist on futile claims, we will consider it an abandonment of the facilities and take firm steps to unilaterally remove it,” KCNA said.

“The South should know that we, who can handle the rubbish South-side facilities however we want… have given a last reprieve to remove their shoddy ‘assets’ considering our past relationship.”

Mt Kumgang is on North Korea’s eastern coast, just beyond the demilitarised zone separating the two countries. It was one of two major inter-Korean economic projects, along with the Kaesong industrial zone, and an important token of rapprochement during decades of hostilities following the 1950-53 Korean War.

Kim called the South-built Mt Kumgang resort facilities, now more than a decade old, “shabby” and “capitalist,” and ordered a modern redevelopment of the tourist spot, KCNA reported in October.

There have been no South Korean tours to Mt Kumgang since 2008, although there have been infrequent events such as the reunions of families from both sides separated by the war.

KCNA said on Friday that Kim inspected the construction site of Yangdok Hot Springs tourist resort again, one of his pet projects as he focuses on building up tourism as a revenue resource that is not blocked by international sanctions.

A photo in state newspaper Rodong Sinmun showed him posing in front of facilities including pools of water, a building and a pagoda, with his shirt collar open.

It was his fourth publicized visit to Yangdok this year. In an earlier visit in late October, Kim said it was “refreshing and reviving” to visit the Yangdok resort, which is nearing completion, comparing it as “a striking contrast to the Mt Kumgang tourist area.”

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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