North Korea compares South to ‘mongrel dog’ and explains why it blew up joint liaison office

Pyongyang says building on countries' border had lost 'symbolic meaning' amid rising tensions 

Chris Baynes
Wednesday 17 June 2020 13:45 BST
North Korea confirms destruction of inter-Korean liaison office

North Korea has compared the South to a “mongrel dog” and said it blew up a joint liaison office on the countries’ border because it had lost its “symbolic meaning”.

In the latest of a series of provocative gestures, Pyongyang vowed to send soldiers to closed co-operation sites in its territory, reinstall border guard posts and resume military exercises in frontline zones, nullifying peace deals reached with South Korea two years ago.

The North blew up the liaison office in the border town of Kaesong on Tuesday amid worsening tensions over a campaign by defectors to send balloons carrying leaflets criticising Kim Jong-un across the frontier.

A commentary published by state news agency KCNA on Wednesday warned the destruction of the building, set up in 2004 and largely funded by Seoul to improve bilateral relations, could “be a prelude to the total catastrophe of the north-south relations”.

It said the office “had already lost the value of its existence and symbolic meaning” and accused the South of violating peace agreements with “hostile acts” including war exercises.

“Just like [a] feared mongrel dog, it kept bragging and bluffing, rattling the dialogue partner and stoking confrontational atmosphere,” the commentary said.

The statement came as the North’s general staff separately said military units would be deployed to the Diamond Mountain resort and the Kaesong industrial complex, both just north of the heavily fortified border.

The two sites, built with South Korean financing, have been closed for years due to inter-Korean disputes and US-led sanctions.

The North said it will resume army exercises and re-establish guard posts to boost military readiness in border areas, and open frontline sites for flying propaganda balloons towards South Korea.

Those steps would reverse agreements reached between the Koreas in September 2018 aimed at lowering military tensions along the border.

Experts believe the provocations are calculated moves to apply pressure on Seoul and Washington amid stalled nuclear negotiations.

Some analysts believe the North may be seeking concessions at a time when its economy, already battered by sanctions, is likely to have worsened due to the coronavirus pandemic.

South Korea’s military expressed regret over the North Korean announcement and warned that the North will face unspecified consequences if it violates the 2018 deals.

Major General Jeon Dong Jin, of the South’s joint chiefs of staff, told reporters Seoul maintained its military readiness but would strive to prevent tensions from rising further.

Kim Yo-jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Mr Kim, said on Wednesday that Pyongyang had rebuffed a recent offer by South Korean president Moon Jae-in to send special envoys to defuse tension.

Ms Kim, who has spearheaded the North’s recent rhetoric against South Korea, called Mr Moon’s offer a “petty farce” and a “trick” to tide over a crisis.

One of Mr Moon’s senior presidential advisers, Yoon Do-han, called the response “very rude”, “irrational” and “senseless”, and warned the South would not tolerate similar statements any longer.

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