SEOUL, June 8 (UPI) — North Korea said it will sever all communications with South Korea after days of angry rhetoric over leaflets being sent across its border by defectors, state-run media reported on Tuesday morning.
Pyongyang will cut communication lines at the inter-Korean liaison office at the border city of Kaesong as well as military and presidential hotlines at noon local time on Tuesday, the report by Korean Central News Agency said.
“We have reached a conclusion that there is no need to sit face to face with the [S]outh Korean authorities and there is no issue to discuss with them, as they have only aroused our dismay,” the report said.
North Korean officials have repeatedly expressed outrage in recent days over information leaflets floated on balloons by defectors in South Korea.
Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, called the leaflet-sending a “sordid and wicked act of hostility” committed by “human scum” on Thursday. She warned that the North would withdraw from an inter-Korean military agreement and would not restart joint economic projects if the practice was not halted.
South Korean officials responded quickly, with the Ministry of Unification, which oversees inter-Korean relations, announcing on Thursday that the government was considering legislation to ban the “tension-causing acts.”
However, reports in North Korean state media continued to condemn the practice and warn of retaliation.
Tuesday’s KCNA report accused the South Korean government of “connivance” with the defectors to send the leaflets.
“The disgusting riff-raff have committed hostile acts against the DPRK by taking advantage of the [S]outh Korean authorities’ irresponsible stance and with their connivance,” the report said.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.
“They dared to hurt the dignity of our supreme leadership and mock the sacred mental core of all our people,” the report said. “They should be forced to pay dearly for this.”
The decision to cut off communications was made at a meeting attended by Kim Yo Jong and top official Kim Yong Chol, according to KCNA.
“They discussed phased plans for the work against the enemy in order to make the betrayers and riff-raff pay for their crimes, and then, to begin with, gave an instruction to completely cut off all the communication and liaison lines between the [N]orth and the [S]outh,” the report said.
After a period of rapprochement that began in 2018, relations between the two Koreas have cooled, particularly since a summit in February last year when U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un failed to produce an agreement on denuclearization and sanctions relief.
After a 17-month hiatus, Pyongyang began testing missiles throughout the latter half of 2019. At the end of the year, Kim Jong Un announced that there was no longer any reason for North Korea to be “unilaterally bound” to its commitment to halt nuclear and inter-continental ballistic missile tests and warned of a “new strategic weapon” coming soon.
The communist state has continued to conduct weapons tests throughout 2020 while rebuffing efforts from South Korea for new talks and joint economic and tourism projects.
The KCNA report said that Tuesday’s move is the first in a series of actions that North Korea will take to cut all communication ties with the South.
“This measure is the first step of the determination to completely shut down all contact means with [S]outh Korea and get rid of unnecessary things,” the report said.