North Korea blows up joint office with South

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020 00:00 |
President Donald Trump. Photo/Courtesy

Seoul, Tuesday

North Korea has blown up a joint liaison office with the South near the North’s border town of Kaesong.

The move comes just hours after the North renewed threats of military action at the Korean border.

The site was opened in 2018 to help the Koreas, officially in a state of war, to communicate. It had been empty since January due to Covid-19 restrictions.

In a statement, South Korea warned it would “respond strongly” if the North “continues to worsen the situation”.

The destruction of the office, it said, “abandons the hopes of everyone who wanted the development of inter-Korean relations and peace settlement in the Korean Peninsula”.

“The government makes it clear that all responsibility of this situation lies in the North.”

Tensions between North and South Korea have been escalating for weeks, prompted by defector groups in the South sending propaganda across the border.

The North Korean leader’s sister, Kim Yo-jong - considered a close and powerful ally - threatened at the weekend to demolish the office.

Her brother, Kim Jong-un, has ruled North Korea as Supreme Leader since 2011.

There were hopes for improved relations between the North and the South and its close ally the US after Donald Trump met Mr Kim at the North-South border last June, but nothing materialised and the atmosphere has since deteriorated.

Economic sanctions

North Korea is under crippling US and UN economic sanctions over its militarised nuclear programme. Washington has not yet commented on the North’s latest action.

Pyongyang has blamed the escalation on Seoul’s inability to prevent defectors from flying anti-regime propaganda over the border. But it is likely that this is just being used as an excuse.

The leafleting gives a “cause” for North Koreans to rally around. It was notable that once again, in the aftermath of the explosion, state media made reference to “human scum”, their description of North Korean defectors in the South. — BBC

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