North Korea blows up inter-Korean liaison office near border with South

North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border on Tuesday, sparking broad international condemnation after days of virulent rhetoric from Pyongyang.
The demolition came after Kim Yo Jong - the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un - said at the weekend that the "useless North-South liaison office" would soon "completely collapse".
The footage of the explosion released by Seoul's President Blue House showed an explosion that rolled over several buildings just across the Kaesong border. A nearby tower partially collapsed as clouds of smoke rose into the sky.
According to analysts, Pyongyang could try to create a crisis to increase pressure on Seoul as the nuclear negotiations with Washington come to a halt.
After an emergency meeting, the National Security Council said it would "react strongly" if Pyongyang "continues to take steps to exacerbate the situation."
"All responsibility for the effects of this action lies directly in the north," he added.
The US, the European Union and Russia all called for caution.
A State Department spokesman said Washington was calling on the North to "stop taking counterproductive measures," while the Kremlin described the escalation as "concern" and said it would monitor it closely.
The EU warned Pyongyang against taking further "provocative and harmful steps".
The liaison office - in a dormant industrial area where southern companies used to employ northern workers - opened in September 2018, days before Southern President Moon Jae-in flew to Pyongyang for his third summit with Kim.
In the months that followed, around 20 officers were stationed on each side of the office.
Relations between Korea, however, went bad after the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in February last year because of the sanctions relief and the North's willingness to give up in return.
Office operations ceased in January due to the coronavirus pandemic.
And since the beginning of June, North Korea has issued a number of critical condemnations from the south against activists who send flyers against Pyongyang across the border - something defectors do on a regular basis.
Pyongyang's official Korean central news agency said Tuesday that the destruction of the liaison office was in line with "the angry people's thinking of forcing human scum and those who protected it to pay dearly for their crimes."
Pyongyang announced last week that all official communications with Seoul would be cut.
"North Korea has started a provocative cycle of escalation," said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, describing the destruction of the office as "a symbolic blow to reconciliation and cooperation between Korea."
"The Kim regime also signals that the US will not have the luxury of keeping North Korea on its backbone for the rest of the year," he added.
- relations pissed off -
Since Pyongyang has condemned leaflet launches, usually attached to hot air balloons or floating in bottles, the Department of the United States has filed a police complaint against two defector groups and warned against "taking proper action" against activists.
On Monday, the left-leaning moon urged the north "not to close the dialogue window".
The two Koreas are still at war technically after the hostilities in the Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice that was never replaced by a peace treaty.
Last week, Northern Trump criticized the US in a stabbing denunciation on the second anniversary of the Singapore summit. His foreign minister, Ri Son Gwon, accused Washington of seeking regime change.
US diplomats insist that they believe Kim has promised to give up his nuclear arsenal in Singapore, which Pyongyang has not done.
The north is sanctioned internationally several times for its banned weapons programs.
She believes that she deserves to be rewarded for her moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and for deactivating her nuclear test site, as well as for the return of detained US citizens and the remains of soldiers killed in the Korean War.
"Nothing is more hypocritical than an empty promise," said Ri in his statement, which was carried by the official news agency KCNA.
Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute, said: "North Korea is frustrated that the South has not offered an alternative plan to revive US-North talks, let alone creating a proper atmosphere for the revival Has .
"It has come to the conclusion that the South has failed as an intermediary in this process."
burs-st / jm / to

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