(LEAD) N. Korea removes street lamps along inter-Korean roads

North Korea has dismantled street lamps along its side of two rare roads connecting the two Koreas, a source said Thursday, in an apparent move to completely shut down the routes once seen as symbols of inter-Korean cooperation and exchange. The military last month detected the North removing dozens of street lamps along the Gyeongui road, which connects the South's western border city of Paju to the North's Kaesong, and the Donghae road along the east coast, according to the source. The move comes after North Korean troops were spotted installing mines on the two roads in January as inter-Korean ties have become increasingly strained in recent months. The South Korean military confirmed that the North has recently dismantled some structures along the roads, noting that it is closely monitoring North Korean military activities. "(We) are analyzing the motive behind the (dismantling), and I understand it currently has no military impact," Col. Lee Sung-jun, spokesperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said i n a regular briefing. Last December, the North's leader called for scrapping a decadeslong policy of seeking unification with South Korea and defining their relations as those between "two states hostile to each other." In January, Kim gave instructions for "strict" measures to block all the channels of inter-Korean communication along the border, such as cutting off the Gyeongui land route, which includes a railway, on the North's side to an "irretrievable level." The two roads were built during a reconciliatory mood between the two Koreas in the mid-2000s but have ceased to function in recent years as ties have soured. The Gyeongui road was last used when South Korean officials withdrew from a joint liaison office in Kaesong in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Donghae road remains unused since the 2019 no-deal Hanoi summit between then U.S. President Donald Trump and the North's leader Kim Jong-un. Source: Yonhap News Agency