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North Korea blows up inter-Korean liaison office building

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Seoul’sUnificationMinistrysaysthedestructionofthebuildinghappenedintheNorthKoreanborde

Seoul’s Unification Ministry says the destruction of the building happened in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

North Korea blows up inter-Korean liaison office building North Korea blows up inter-Korean liaison office building business Smoke rises from North Korea's Kaesong Industrial Complex where an inter-Korean liaison office was blown up on June 16, 2020 (AFP)

North Korea confirms it destroyed an inter-Korean office and has cut all communication lines with South Korea.

BREAKING:

From the KCNA just now: The joint-liaison office was "tragically ruined with a terrific explosion" — a move that is "corresponding to the mindset of the enraged people to surely force human scum and those, who have sheltered the scum, to pay dearly for their crimes."

— NK NEWS (@nknewsorg) June 16, 2020

Seoul’s Unification Ministry says the destruction of the building happened in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

North Korea’s military on Tuesday threatened to move back into zones that were demilitarised under inter-Korean peace agreements as the country continued to dial up pressure on rival South Korea amid stalled nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration.

The General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said it’s reviewing a ruling party recommendation to advance into unspecified border areas that had been demilitarised under agreements with the South, which would “turn the front line into a fortress.”

The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un days earlier said the North would demolish a “useless” inter-Korean liaison office in the border town of Kaesong and that she would leave it to the military to come up with the next step of retaliation against the “enemy” South.

READ MORE: North Korea threatens South with military action

“Our army is keeping a close watch on the current situation in which the (North-South) relations are turning worse and worse, and getting itself fully ready for providing a sure military guarantee to any external measures to be taken by the party and government,” said the KPA’s General Staff, which is akin to other countries’ Joint Chiefs of Staff.

'Action plan'

It said it’s studying an “action plan for taking measures to make the army advance again into the zones that had been demilitarised under the (North-South) agreement, turn the front line into a fortress and further heighten the military vigilance against (the South),” according to the statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

While it wasn’t immediately clear what actions North Korea’s military might take against the South, the North has threatened to abandon a bilateral military agreement reached in 2018 to reduce tensions across the border.

The Koreas then committed to jointly take steps to reduce conventional military threats, such as establishing border buffers on ground and sea and no-fly zones.

They also removed some front-line guard posts in a symbolic gesture. The North’s statement possibly implies that it would no longer respect the buffer zones and that the guard posts would be rebuilt.

The North’s military also said it would open unspecified areas near the ground border and its southwestern waters so that North Koreans could send anti-South Korea propaganda leaflets to the South, in an apparent tit-for-tat against North Korean defectors and activists floating anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.

This could potentially create security headaches for the South if North Korean military vessels escort North Korean civilian boats as they approach or cross the countries’ disputed western maritime border for leafleting, said Kim Dong-yub, an analyst from Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies and a former South Korean military official.

The waters have occasionally been the scene of bloody skirmishes, including a 2010 attack on a South Korean naval ship that killed 46 sailors. The North, which does not recognise the western maritime border drawn unilaterally by the UN at the close of the 1950-53 Korean War, has denied responsibility over the sinking of the Cheonan.

Threats to abandon bilateral peace

Choi Hyun-soo, spokeswoman of South Korea's Defense Ministry, said the South Korean and US militaries were closely monitoring the North's military and that the inter-Korean military agreement should be kept.

Recently announced as her brother’s top official on inter-Korean affairs, Kim Yo-jong in recent weeks has repeatedly bashed South Korea over declining bilateral relations and its inability to stop leafleting by defectors and activists.

Since Pyongyang condemned leaflet launches, Seoul's unification ministry has filed a police complaint against two defector groups and warned of a "thorough crackdown" against activists.
North Korea in recent months has suspended virtually all cooperation with the South while expressing frustration over the lack of progress in its nuclear negotiations with Washington, which have faltered with the Americans rejecting North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities. 

The North has also threatened to abandon bilateral peace agreements reached during Kim Jong-un’s three summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in 2018, while also expressing frustration over Seoul's unwillingness to defy US-led international sanctions and restart inter-Korean economic cooperation.

READ MORENorth Korea's Kim vows to further bolster nuclear war deterrence

Seoul's defence ministry called for Pyongyang to abide by the 2018 agreement, in which both sides' militaries vowed to cease "all hostile acts" and dismantled a number of structures along the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone between the two countries.

"We're taking the situation seriously," ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo told a briefing. "Our military is maintaining readiness posture to be able to respond to any situation."

Several defector-led groups have regularly sent back flyers, together with food, $1 bills, mini radios and USB sticks containing South Korean dramas and news, usually by balloon over the border or in bottles by river.

Moon on Monday called on North Korea to stop raising animosities and return to talks, saying that the rivals must not reverse the peace deals.

Some experts say North Korea, which has mobilised people for massive demonstrations condemning defectors, is deliberately censuring the South to rally its public and shift attention away from a worsening economy. 

Although Kim Jong-un had declared a “frontal breakthrough” against sanctions, experts say the Covid-19 crisis likely thwarted many of his economic goals.

DEVELOPING: North Korea appears to have blown up an inter-Korean liaison office located in city of Kaesong after explosion heard and smoke seen rising from the location – Yonhap news agency

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