North Korea blows up inter-Korean liaison office near border with South
A North Korean guard post (top) is seen over a South Korean military fence (bottom) from the border city of Paju on June 16, 2020. North Korea's army is "fully ready" to take action against the South, state media said on June 16 in the latest verbal sabre-rattling from Pyongyang, days after its leader's sister threatened military moves against Seoul.
AFP/Jung Yeon-je
North Korea blows up inter-Korean liaison office near border with South
(Agence France-Presse) - June 16, 2020 - 4:06pm

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border on Tuesday, the South's Unification ministry said, after days of increasingly virulent rhetoric from Pyongyang.

"North Korea blows up Kaesong Liaison Office at 14:49," the ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, said in a one-line alert sent to reporters.

The statement came minutes after an explosion was heard and smoke seen rising from the long-shuttered joint industrial zone in Kaesong where the liaison office was set up less than two years ago, Yonhap news agency reported citing unspecified sources.

Its destruction came after Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said at the weekend: "Before long, a tragic scene of the useless north-south joint liaison office completely collapsed would be seen."

Analysts say Pyongyang may be seeking to manufacture a crisis to increase pressure on Seoul while nuclear negotiations with Washington are at a standstill.

Since early June, North Korea has issued a series of vitriolic condemnations of the South over activists sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets over the border — something defectors do on a regular basis.

Last week it announced it was severing all official communication links with South Korea.

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

"North Korea is frustrated that the South has failed to offer an alternative plan to revive the US-North talks, let alone create a right atmosphere for the revival," said Cheong Seong-chang, a director of the Sejong Institute's Center for North Korean Studies.

"It has concluded the South has failed as a mediator in the process."

The liaison office was opened in September 2018, days before the South's President Moon Jae-in flew to Pyongyang for his third summit with Kim.

Relations soured

Officials from both sides were stationed at the office during subsequent months, but inter-Korean relations soured following the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in February last year.

Its operations were suspended in January because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since Pyongyang condemned the leaflet launches, Seoul's unification ministry has filed a police complaint against two defector groups and warned of a "thorough crackdown" against activists.

On Monday, the left-leaning Moon urged the North not to "close the window of dialogue".

Earlier Tuesday, North Korea's army said it was "fully ready" to take action against the South, including re-entering areas that had been demilitarised under an inter-Korean agreement.

The two Koreas remain technically at war after Korean War hostilities ended with an armistice in 1953 that was never replaced with a peace treaty.

NORTH KOREA SOUTH KOREA
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 12, 2020 - 3:42pm

South Korean officials were briefing the White House Thursday on the outcome of their pathfinding meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Seoul has already publicized that North Korea offered talks with the United States on denuclearization and normalizing ties, a potential diplomatic opening after a year of escalating tensions over the North's nuclear and missile tests. The rival Koreas also agreed to hold a leadership summit in late April.

Top Trump administration officials were getting a chance to hear firsthand from South Korean national security director, Chung Eui-yong, who led the delegation that went to Pyongyang. — Associated Press

November 12, 2020 - 3:42pm

North Korea has accused the UN agency responsible for regulating atomic energy of being a puppet of hostile countries after a new report said the isolated nation's nuclear weapons stockpile was breaking international law.

Pyongyang has gradually built an atomic stockpile after abandoning the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003, and has tested several nuclear bombs in the years since.

Since Kim Jong Un took over from his father as the country's supreme leader, North Korea's military has made rapid strides in its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, and has been subjected to increasingly strict international sanctions as a result.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors have not been allowed into the country for more than a decade, said Wednesday that Pyongyang's weapons programme was "deeply regrettable."

North Korea's nuclear activities "remain a cause for serious concern," said agency chief Rafael Mariano Grossi in a report to the UN General Assembly. — AFP

June 16, 2020 - 4:04pm

North Korea blew up a liaison office with the South in the border city of Kaesong on Tuesday, Seoul's Unification ministry says, after days of increasingly virulent rhetoric from Pyongyang.

"North Korea blows up Kaesong Liaison Office at 14:49," the office of the spokesman for the ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, says in a one-line alert sent to reporters. — AFP

March 2, 2020 - 12:04pm

North Korea fires an unidentified projectile on Monday, the South's military says, weeks after Pyongyang declared its moratorium on long-range missile tests over.

The statement from the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff gave no further details. The North carried out a series of weapons tests late last year. — AFP

January 1, 2020 - 3:51pm

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared to skip his set-piece New Year speech Wednesday, with analysts suggesting the move may have been to avoid implicitly admitting mistakes in the last two years of diplomacy with the US.

Kim has been giving the annual speech since 2013, after he revived the tradition started by his grandfather -- North Korea's founding leader Kim Il Sung.

It has been a key moment in the North Korean political calendar, reviewing the past and setting out goals for the future, and printed in full in the Rodong Sinmun mouthpiece newspaper.

At first he wore a party uniform and stood at a lectern to address troops, but the format has evolved over time as Pyongyang modernises its messaging, and last year he sat in his office in a Western-style suit and tie.

But this year there was no January 1 morning broadcast -- as has been standard recently -- or even at noon, considered the latest likely time. -- AFP

January 1, 2020 - 12:08pm

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has declared an end to moratoriums on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and threatened a demonstration of a "new strategic weapon" soon.

Analysts said the announcement, reported by state media on Wednesday, amounted to Kim putting a missile "to Donald Trump's head" -- but warned that escalation by Pyongyang would probably backfire.

Washington was swift to respond, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging Kim to "take a different course" and stressing that the US wanted "peace not confrontation" with the North, while Trump played down the development.

Pyongyang has previously fired missiles capable of reaching the entire US mainland, and has carried out six nuclear tests, the last of them 16 times the size of the Hiroshima blast, according to the highest estimates. -- AFP

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