SEOUL, South Korea -- Raising tensions with South Korea yet again, North Korea said Wednesday it cut the last military hotline with Seoul because there was no need for communications between the countries in a situation "where a war may break out at any moment."
The hotline had provided a channel of communications between the militaries of North Korea and South Korea, which do not have diplomatic relations. The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war, divided by a heavily guarded border and with both governments prohibiting direct contact with citizens on the other side.
However, for nearly a decade, the main use of the military hotline was to arrange passage through the Demilitarized Zone for South Korean managers who work at a joint industrial complex in the North. In 2009, North Korea's move to sever the phone connection stranded some South Korean workers in the North for several days.
The move Wednesday to shut down one of the only modes of communication between the Koreas is the latest of a series of threats designed to provoke the new government in Seoul to change its policies toward neighboring North Korea. President Park Geun-hye took office in Seoul a month ago.
Moves at home to order North Korean troops into "combat readiness" also are seen as ways to build domestic unity as young leader Kim Jong Un strengthens his military credentials.
North Korea's chief delegate to inter-Korean military talks relayed in a message Wednesday to his South Korean counterpart that Pyongyang would sever communications until South Korea halts "hostile acts" against the neighbor.
South Korea and the U.S. have been holding routine joint military drills that Pyongyang considers rehearsals for invasion. North Korea also accuses the South of joining the U.S. in leading the campaign to punish Pyongyang for conducting a long-range rocket launch in December and an underground nuclear test in February.
"Under the situation where a war may break out any moment, there is no need to keep North-South military communications," the North's Korean Central News Agency said. "North-South military communications will be cut off."
Seoul's Unification Ministry, which is in charge of relations with the North, called it an "unhelpful measure for the safe operation of the Kaesong complex."
North Korea recently also cut a Red Cross hotline with South Korea and another with the U.S.-led U.N. command at the border between the Koreas. However, three other telephone hotlines used for exchanging information about air traffic remain intact.
The line severed Wednesday has been essential in operating the last major symbol of inter-Korean cooperation from the 2000s: an industrial complex in the North managed by hundreds of workers from the South. The phone line is used to clear cross-border shipments and to arrange passage for South Koreans who commute to Kaesong.
Aside from the hotlines, there are no landline, cell phone, fax, email or mail connections between North and South Korea. Both Seoul and Pyongyang prohibit from direct contact with citizens from the other Korea without government permission.
There was no immediate word about the impact on South Korean workers who were at the Kaesong industrial complex. About 750 South Koreans were working in Kaesong on Wednesday, officials said, and that the two Koreas had normal communications earlier in the day over the hotline when South Korean workers traveled back and forth to the factory park as scheduled.
South Korean managers working in the border town could also be contacted on their South Korean cell phones from Seoul on Wednesday.