Dozens of South Korean trucks returned across the North Korean border on Thursday, laden with equipment and goods from the Kaesong Industrial Complex, after Seoul suspended operations there as punishment for the North's weekend rocket launch.
Halting activity at the park, where 124 South Korean companies employed about 55,000 North Koreans, cuts the last significant vestige of North-South cooperation - a rare opportunity for Koreans divided by the 1950-53 war to interact on a daily basis.
Isolated North Korea faces mounting pressure following what it says was a satellite launch on Sunday. Washington, among others, said it as a ballistic missile test, and like last month's nuclear test, a violation of United Nations resolutions.
The top military officers from the United States, South Korea and Japan agreed late on Wednesday to step up information-sharing and coordination of security efforts in light of increasing North Korean threats. Earlier, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously in favor of tougher sanctions.
Meanwhile, Associated Press, citing a South Korean official, reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had executed his military chief. The report said that Ri Yong Gil, chief of the military's general staff, had been charged with corruption, abusing his power and forming a clique. The official told AP that the execution was part of Kim's attempts to bolster his grip on power in the isolated state.
Ri, an army general who took up the top military job in 2013, had been considered as one of Kim's trusted aides because he frequently accompanied his inspection tours of army units and factories.
Speculation about his fate flared after he missed two key national events in North Korea -- a meeting of senior ruling Workers' Party officials and a rally celebrating this week's rocket test.