North Korea said it was shutting a liaison office it shares with South Korea from yesterday and severing communication over a leaders’ hotline, putting pressure on Seoul to break with Washington’s effort to isolate the country.
Pyongyang was taking the move because South Korean authorities had “connived” to carry out “hostile acts” against the country, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
The statement appeared to be referring to leaflets critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un being floated by balloons across the border by anti-Pyongyang activists in South Korea.
“This measure is the first step of the determination to completely shut down all contact means with South Korea and get rid of unnecessary things,” KCNA said, adding that North Korean officials Kim Yong-chol and Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong gave the instruction to “completely cut off all the communication and liaison lines” with the South.
The move could end up stoking tensions between South Korea and US President Donald Trump’s administration, which have long differed over how to engage with Kim Jong-un’s regime.
North Korea has for months shunned South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s offers for talks and slammed him for standing by US sanctions, which are part of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign to force Kim Jong-un to give up his nuclear weapons.
The regime has so far ignored Moon’s limited proposals for restoring some of the economic and trade ties that once represented as much as about 10 percent of North Korea’s economy.
That money has dwindled to virtually nothing since global sanctions were imposed on Kim Jong-un’s regime for 2017 tests of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles in defiance of UN resolutions.
The two nations are about to mark the 20th anniversary of the first summit between their leaders — an event that opened hopes of reconciliation between the neighbors. After Moon’s progressive ruling party scored a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in April, his government made a fresh push to restart some exchanges that could allow a trickle of foreign currency to flow to the South’s cash-starved neighbor.
Actually implementing such steps would likely require sanctions waivers from the US — something Trump has shown no sign of providing.
“South Korea has continually given the indication that the North’s complaints, threats, and provocations will be tolerated,” said Soo Kim, a Rand Corp policy analyst who specializes in Korean Peninsula issues. “Seoul’s pliancy only encourages Pyongyang’s provocations.”
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