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North closer the border over joint exercise -

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North closer the border over joint exercise

The World Today - Tuesday, 17 March , 2009 12:30:00

Reporter: Mark Willacy

ELEANOR HALL: North Korea has partially re-opened its border with the South and allowed hundreds of
stranded South Koreans to return home from a shared industrial zone.

The Stalinist state closed the border in protest over joint United States and South Korean military
exercises, which the Communist government says are in preparation for an invasion of its territory.

But Washington says these are merely annual exercises aimed at preparing for any possible North
Korean aggression.

North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy reports.

(Sound of military show)

MARK WILLACY: Having invited in the TV cameras, the US military put on a cracker of a show - live
ammunition, armoured vehicles, artillery, and fighter jets.

This military exercise involves more than 50,000 United States and South Korean troops, and this
phase of the war games is being held just 30 kilometres from the border with the communist North.

Not surprisingly, just over the mountains in Pyongyang, the Generals are nervous. They've accused
Washington and Seoul of preparing to spark a second Korean War.

But a United States military spokesman told reporters that the military exercises are defensive,
not offensive, in nature.

US MILITARY SPOKESMAN: Today what you're seeing is us preparing to support our allies, the Republic
of Korea, should any outward aggression be imposed upon them.

MARK WILLACY: Predictably, Pyongyang isn't buying it.

(Sound of North Korean television)

In response to these war games, the North cut military phone and fax lines with the South, and then
shut the border.

That in turn forced the closure of the Kaesong industrial estate.

Opened four years ago just north of the heavily fortified border, the estate is supposed to be a
symbol of reconciliation between two countries still technically at war.

Inside Kaesong are about 100 South Korean factories, producing everything from clothes to
kitchenware, footwear to watches. They employ about 40,000 North Koreans.

Today, just south of the border, a bunch of extremely well-dressed demonstrators turned up to
protest against the closure of Kaesong.

(Korean protester speaking)

'North Korea must allow South Korean companies to transport materials and daily necessities into
the production area,' pleads this factory owner wearing a designer tie and a pin-striped suit.

Business is one thing, ballistic missiles another.

And that's exactly what the US, South Korea and Japan believe is sitting on a launch pad in the
communist North, being readied for launch.

Pyongyang says the rocket is merely transporting a communications satellite into space. But foreign
intelligence agencies believe the rocket is a Taepodong-2 - a three-stage intercontinental
ballistic missile theoretically capable of reaching Alaska and even northern Australia.

Akitaka Saiki is Japan's delegate to the six-party talks on North Korea.

(Akitaka Saiki speaking)

'Japan and South Korea are in agreement that what the North is about to do is in violation of the
United Nations Security Council resolutions. We'll closely follow whether or not this is in fact a
satellite launch, and we'll need to consider sanctions against the North if the rocket is fired,'
he says.

(Sound of street fighting)

But for now, the only firing going on is south of the border.

This is Mark Willacy in Tokyo for The World Today.