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Joint Korea project halted; Putin says nuclear war would make Chernobyl look like 'fairy tale'

| Monday, April 8, 2013, 5:51 p.m.

PAJU, South Korea — North Korea suspended its sole remaining major project with the South on Monday, compounding weeks of threats against the United States and South Korea, as Russian President Vladimir Putin said any nuclear conflict could make Chernobyl look like a “fairy tale.”

Reclusive North Korea's decision to all but close the Kaesong industrial park coincided with speculation that it will carry out some sort of provocative action — another nuclear weapons test or missile launch — in what has become one of the most serious crises on the peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

Tension has been rising since the United Nations imposed new sanctions against the North in response to its third test of a nuclear weapon in February. Pyongyang has been further angered by weeks of joint military exercises by South Korean and U.S. forces and threatened both countries with nuclear attack.

Putin said the conflict could cause greater devastation than the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

“I would make no secret about it: We are worried about the escalation on the Korean peninsula, because we are neighbors,” he said at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a visit to a trade fair in Germany. “And if, God forbid, something happens, Chernobyl which we all know a lot about, may seem like a child's fairy tale.”

Analysts had suggested Pyongyang would continue to allow Kaesong to operate as it accounted for about $2 billion in annual trade, with 50,000 North Koreans working in the zone making household goods for 123 South Korean companies.

It generates more than $80 million a year in cash in wages — paid to the state rather than to workers.

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