North Korea to sever last communication channel with South

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
March 27, 2013

North Korea announces it will cut communication channels with the South, a new pope profile reveals a keen political mind, and Syria’s opposition says denied missile request sends message of support to Assad. Today is Wednesday, March 27, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.


North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (L) watches soldiers of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) taking part in the landing and anti-landing drills of KPA Large Combined Units 324 and 287 and KPA Navy Combined Unit 597, in the eastern sector of the front and the east coastal area on March 25, 2013, in this picture released by the North’s KCNA news agency in Pyongyang, March 26, 2013.

North Korea threatens South with the silent treatment. Facing new U.N. sanctions and continuing a trend of hyperbolic threats, North Korea announced today that it will break off its single line of communication with South Korea in anticipation of war that could break out at “any moment”:

The “dialogue channel” is used on a daily basis to process South Koreans who work in the Kaesong industrial project where 123 South Korean firms employ more than 50,000 North Koreans to make household goods. About 120 South Koreans are stationed at Kaesong at any one time on average. It is the last remaining joint project in operation between the two Koreas after South Korea cut off most aid and trade in response to Pyongyang’s shooting of a South Korean tourist and the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel blamed on the North.

The hotline is also used for communication between the North and the U.S. military supervising the region’s Demilitarized Zone. North Korea simulated a drone attack on the South today, according to its state news agency. It is not known whether or not the North actually possesses drones. North Korea and South Korea are technically still at war following a 1953 armistice for the Korean War.

The political pope arrives. Recently elected Pope Francis is lauded as a humble figure well-equipped to be the new leader of the Curia:

Interviews with nearly two dozen people including his sister, colleagues from the Jesuit order in Argentina, his archdiocese and social circle, build a picture of a devout and dedicated priest whose scholarly grasp of Church doctrine rarely hindered his down-to-earth focus on charity, compassion and social work. They also reveal a calculating leader so used to getting his way that he once summoned a courtroom to him, rather than walk a few blocks to the courthouse.

The Argentine cardinal rose quickly through the Church’s ranks, impressing many Catholics with his devotion to the poor and irking some with micro-management sensibilities. The pope also has been accused of not doing enough to save Jesuit priests and others who were disappeared under Argentina’s military junta. It appears the new pope is poised to enact much-needed changes in the Church.

Syrian opposition rep says NATO’s lack of support will help Assad. Moaz Alkhatib, the resigned Syrian opposition leader acting as representative of Syria’s rebels at the Arab Summit in Doha, said that NATO’s refusal to give Patriot missiles to the opposition signals to Syrian President Bashar Assad that he can do what he wants:

The 22-nation League lent its support to giving military aid to the Syrian rebels and a summit communique also offered some of its sternest language yet against Assad, affirming member states had a right to offer help. But Tuesday’s proceedings offered no clarity on Alkhatib’s position in the leadership, a question central to Arab and Western efforts to shore up the political credibility of the opposition and heighten pressure on Assad and his inner circle.

Alkhatib said he does not intend to return to his post, but that he will continue to maintain a leadership role for now. The opposition party is rife with internal tension. Alkhatib resigned after he was criticized for reaching out to the Assad regime with a negotiated deal. Still, Alkhatib insists that differences within the coalition were not the primary driver of his leaving, citing instead frustrations with a global lack of support.

Nota Bene: Reuters photographers snapped incredible images of grade-school students crossing collapsed bridges, walking across planks and wading through flood waters to get to class.

Standouts:

American amigos? - Senior fellow of the Inter-American Dialogue Peter Hakim wonders if the U.S. can repair ties with Latin America post-Chavez. (Reuters)

Don’t tear down that wall - A week of protests failed to save a portion of the Berlin Wall, which was torn down today by a property development firm. (BBC)

Fascist hideout - One of Mussolini’s secret bunkers will soon be open to the public. (Time)

Dead duck debacle - More than 1,000 dead ducks were discovered in a river in Sichuan, days after thousands of dead pigs were found in a Shanghai waterway. (Al Jazeera)

Vietnam’s pre-war attractions  - Before the war, tourism brochures attempted to lure Americans to Vietnam. (The Atlantic)

From the File:

  • Hopes, suspicions over peace in Kurdish rebel hideout
  • Italy 5-Star Movement refuses to back center-left government
  • Afghanistan says ready to work for peace without Pakistan help
  • Mursi sees Egypt vote delayed by six months
  • Britain loses bid to deport radical cleric Abu Qatada
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