By JOOHEE CHO, ABC News
(SEOUL, South Korea) — North Korea has blown up the inter-Korean liaison office in their city of Gaesong, just above the North-South border, and the destruction was forewarned as part of Pyongyang’s series of threats to escalate tensions.
The North has been sharply criticizing the South Korean government for not doing enough to stop citizens’ groups flying balloons into the North that contain anti-Pyongyang leaflets.
“[The] South Korean government did show strong willingness to restrict these leaflets sent by North Korean defectors in the South. But North Korea is adamant to bring inter-Korean relations back to the hostile era and seems to conclude that there’s nothing more to expect from South Korean President Moon Jae-in,” Cheong Seong Chang, director of Center for North Korean Studies at The Sejong Institute in Seoul, told ABC News.
The destruction is largely a symbolic act but designed to send a strong message to South Korea.
Pyongyang has continuously displayed anger and disappointment over the deadlocked nuclear negotiations. Analysts say this is part of a carefully choreographed staged plan to attract international attention back to nuclear issues as North Korea is running out of time to reach a deal with U.S. President Donald Trump who faces presidential elections in November.
Pyongyang wants South Korea to play a more significant role to push Washington to come back to nuclear negotiations.
The demolition of the building, a symbol of peace and reconciliation between the two Koreas, posed a serious setback to South Korea’s Moon administration that worked hard to open dialogue with the North.
“North’s destruction of the inter-Korean joint liaison office violated expectations for the development of inter-Korean relations and the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula. This government makes it clear that the North is fully responsible for all the consequences. We express our stern warning that we will respond strongly if the North continues to take steps to aggravate the situation,” National Security Council Secretary General Kim You-geun said in a statement on behalf of South Korea’s presidential office.
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