Key developments since North Korea's rocket launch

AP News
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Posted: Feb 11, 2016 9:41 AM
Key developments since North Korea's rocket launch

Tensions with North Korea have escalated sharply since the country launched a long-range rocket to put a satellite into orbit on Sunday. A look at the latest developments:

— NORTH KOREA FREEZES SOUTH KOREAN ASSETS AT FACTORY PARK: North Korea ordered a military takeover of the factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea in a swift, aggressive response to South Korea's suspension of operations at the Kaesong complex. All of the 280 South Korean workers who were at the facility crossed the border Thursday night, hours after the North said it would deport them and seize assets there.

Pyongyang also was shutting down two crucial cross-border communication hotlines.

The factory park, which started operations in 2004, has provided 616 billion won ($560 million) of cash to North Korea, according to Seoul. Last year, 124 South Korean companies hired 54,000 North Korean workers to produce socks, wristwatches and other goods.

— MORE SANCTIONS: The U.S. Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed legislation that aims to deprive the North of the financing to make miniaturized nuclear warheads and long-range missiles. The legislation also authorizes $50 million over the next five years to transmit radio broadcasts into North Korea, purchase communications equipment and support humanitarian assistance. A House bill was overwhelmingly approved last month.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said his country would impose new sanctions. The measures, which require Cabinet and parliamentary action, will include expanded restrictions on travel between the countries and a complete ban on visits by North Korean ships to Japanese ports.

Discussions were continuing at the U.N. Security Council to impose new sanctions, a White House official said.

— MILITARY OFFICIAL EXECUTED?: A South Korean official said Thursday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had his military chief executed for corruption and other charges. If true, the execution of Ri Yong Gil, chief of the North Korean military's general staff, would be the latest in a series of killings, purges and dismissals since Kim took power in late 2011. South Korean officials have a spotty record of tracking developments in opaque North Korea.

— LONG-RANGE ROCKET LAUNCH: North Korea on Sunday launched a long-range rocket in what is widely considered a cover for a banned test of technology for a missile that could strike the U.S. mainland. It was widely condemned, with the South Korean president calling it an "intolerable provocation." The North said the rocket put an Earth observation satellite into orbit; outside experts say the satellite does not appear to be transmitting signals.

The launch follows North Korea's widely disputed claim last month to have detonated a hydrogen bomb in its fourth nuclear test.