North Korea destroys Kaesong joint liaison office with South

Henrietta Strickland
June 16, 2020

Former Rep. Park Jie-won, who acted in such a role as Kim Dae-jung's culture minister ahead of the historic 2000 summit, said in a radio program Monday a special envoy should carry a surprising proposal to the North to prevent a complete breakdown in ties.

Kim You-geun, the deputy national security adviser of South Korea claimed that the destruction "broke the expectations of all people who hope for the development of inter-Korean relations and lasting peace on the peninsula".

North Korea, a tightly controlled quasi-Stalinist state that does not allow spontaneous protests, has allowed several recent demonstrations against the leaflet launches. The blast also appeared to cause a partial collapse of a neighboring 15-story high-rise that had served as a residential facility for South Korean officials who staffed the liaison office.

The leaflets - usually attached to hot air balloons or floated in bottles - criticise North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over human rights abuses and his nuclear ambitions.

Some outside analysts believe the North, after failing to get what it wants in nuclear talks, will turn to provocation to win outside concessions because its economy has likely worsened because of persistent USA -led sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.

The office occupied a four-storey building in an industrial zone in the North's city of Kaesong, where companies from South Korea employed Northerners, paying Pyongyang for their labour.

South Korea's response to Tuesday's demolition was relatively strong compared to past provocations.

The liaison office has been shut since late January because of coronavirus concerns.

The first diplomatic mission of its kind, the liaison office was established in 2018 as part of a series of projects aimed at reducing tensions between the two Koreas.

What is concerning this time, however, is that North Korea is no longer the nascent nuclear aspirant it was then. The office was considered a symbol of Moon's engagement policy.

A few minutes later, Seoul's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, confirmed the building had been blown up.

Moon said he's commemorating the anniversary with a "heavy heart", apparently referring to frosty inter-Korean ties highlighted by Pyongyang's decision to cut all communication lines with Seoul and even a threat of military action.

Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, warned statements this month via the state-run KCNA news agency that South Korea could "pay a dear price" for its actions.

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.

We may in the coming days see other steps by the North Koreans, which could range from provocative military exercises, live firing of artillery shells toward South Korean territory, or steps to reverse the accomplishments of the September 2018 inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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