North Korea threatens to shut liaison office with South

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) — In the latest blow for inter-Korean cooperation, North Korea threatened to permanently shut a liaison office with South Korea as it continued to condemn its rival for failing to prevent activists from sending anti-North Korean leaflets across the border.

The statement by North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party late on Friday came a day after the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un said her country would end a military agreement reached with South Korea in 2018 to reduce tensions if Seoul fails to stop the activists.

Kim Yo Jong also said North Korea could permanently shut the liaison office and a joint factory park in the border town of Kaesong, which have been symbols of reconciliation between the two countries. Desperate to save a faltering diplomacy, South Korea in response said it would push new laws to ban activists from flying leaflets by balloon to the North, which triggered a debate over freedom of speech.

But an unidentified spokesman of the Workers’ Party’s United Front Department said Seoul’s promise lacked sincerity, and the scrapping of the liaison office will be the first in a series of North Korean steps that would cause extreme suffering for the South.

The statement also confirmed an elevated status for Kim Yo Jong, who was described as her brother’s top official for inter-Korean affairs.

“We do not hide that we have had long in mind decisive measures to fundamentally remove all provocations from the South and to completely shut down and remove all the contact leverage with the (South),” said the spokesman.

Referring to the leaflets, he said the “non-stop disposal of dirty rubbish from the South side has exhausted us so much as to come to a clearer conclusion that enemies are enemies after all … Our determination is to follow as far as the evil cycle of the confrontation leads”.

Seoul had no reaction to the statement yesterday afternoon. In a speech marking South Korea’s Memorial Day, President Moon Jae-in vowed to strengthen the nation’s defence, but he made no mention of North Korean threats to abandon inter-Korean peace agreements.