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The North Korean government has banned the use of mobile phones by local residents, just weeks after allowing foreign visitors to use their mobile handsets in the country. Mobile phones were only recently introduced in the country, with the first services going live in 2002.

A report from Yonhap News, a South Korean news agency, said that an unnamed North Korean official confirmed the ban at an inter-Korean economic meeting in Pyongyang on Thursday. The restriction came into force on 25 May.

The move may have been prompted by concerns that terrorists could use mobile phones to trigger a bomb, Cellular-News reports, following the recent explosion on a train in North Korea. However, given North Korea's record on civil liberties, this is likely to be a very charitable interpretation of events.

A Yonhap reporter asked the official if the ban had been introduced to protect the political system and prevent the dissemination of dissident opinion. He replied: "I don't know about that." ®

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