Pyongyang shattered the inter-Korean liaison office on its territory on Tuesday, the South Korean government said, raising tensions on the peninsula after weeks of relentless verbal attacks from the north against the south.
The destruction comes after threats made over the weekend by Kim Yo Jong, the powerful younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“In a short time, the useless North-South liaison office will be completely destroyed in a tragic scene,” she warned.
South Korean television has broadcast footage showing smoke rising from the industrial estate across the border in the North Korean city of Kaesong, where the liaison office was established a few years ago. less than two years.
Some experts believe that Pyongyang is seeking to provoke a crisis with Seoul at a time when the nuclear negotiations with Washington are at a standstill.
The Blue House, the South Korean presidency, has called for an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
This liaison office had been opened in September 2018, before a third summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his North Korean counterpart.
It housed around twenty officials from the two countries.
But inter-Korean relations gradually deteriorated in the wake of the fiasco of the second summit between Donald Trump and Mr. Trump and Kim, in February 2019 in Hanoi.
The work of the liaison office was suspended in January due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Since the beginning of the month, Pyongyang has multiplied vitriolic attacks against its neighbor, in particular against North Korean defectors who, from the South, send propaganda leaflets beyond the Demilitarized Zone.
The North Korean official agency KCNA said on Tuesday that the destruction of the liaison office was in accordance with “the mood of the angry people who want to force the waste of humanity, and those who sheltered it, to pay dearly for their crimes. “
“Cycle of provocations”
Last week, the North Korean regime announced the closure of its political and military communication channels with the South Korean “enemy”.
For Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ehwa University in Seoul, “North Korea has started a cycle of provocations with phases of escalation” by calling for this destruction which is a symbolic blow to “the reconciliation and inter-Korean cooperation ”.
“Kim’s regime is also sending a message to the United States that it cannot afford to leave North Korea in the background until the end of the year,” he added. .
Since Pyongyang condemned these shipments of leaflets, which are often hung on balloons which fly to North Korean territory, or inserted in bottles thrown into the border river, the Ministry of Unification has filed a complaint against two groups of North Korean dissidents accused of being behind this propaganda.
Monday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a great architect of the 2018 rapprochement, had urged the North not to let “the window of dialogue close”.
The North Korean military said on Tuesday that it was “fully prepared” to act against the south.
The Korean War (1950-1953) was punctuated by an armistice, not by a peace agreement, which means that the two neighbors are still, technically, in a state of war.
Last week, North Korea cracked down on the United States, accused of hypocrisy two years to the day after the historic Singapore summit between MM. Trump and Kim.
For Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, “North Korea is frustrated by the fact that the South has not proposed an alternative plan to relaunch talks between the United States and the North, leaving it alone to create a climate conducive to their recovery. ”
“She concluded that the South had failed as a mediator in the process,” he said.