North Korea said Wednesday that it will not allow American military personnel and equipment to enter its side of a neutral zone between the two Koreas because the U.S. military had locked it out of a joint conference room.
In a telephone message to the U.S. military Wednesday, the North also demanded that the U.S. halt operations at facilities on its side of the Joint Security Area, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
The American-led U.N. Command and North Korea jointly oversee the neutral area, also known as the truce village of Panmunjom, as members of the U.N. Military Armistice Commission established in 1953 to supervise the cease-fire that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
North Korea said it took the measure after the U.S. military locked the door used by North Korean delegates to access a joint conference room on Oct. 2 "in utter defiance of the agreement on jointly using the conference room," Col. Kwak Yong Hun of the North's mission to Panmunjom said in the telephone message, according to the North's news agency.
In response, the North said it will not allow any U.S. forces to enter its side of the neutral area to check and repair three buildings under American control. The North Korean officer also demanded that the U.S. military halt operations at facilities in the North's side within 48 hours of receiving the message.
Kwak warned that the North would continue to take more "necessary countermeasures" if the door was not unlocked.
David Oten, spokesman for the U.S. military in Seoul, said the U.S. military only had three buildings straddling the demarcation line and no facilities on the North's side. He said a statement would be issued later in the day, reports the AP. I.L.