N. Korea to cut communication with ‘enemy’ South over leaflets

S. Korean activists launch balloons carrying leaflets denouncing Kim Jong-il during a 2010 rally in Hwacheon. (AP pic)

SEOUL: North Korea will cut military and political communication links to “enemy” South Korea on Tuesday, state media said, after threats over activists sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets over the border.

The threats come with inter-Korean ties at a standstill, despite three summits between the North’s Kim Jong-un and the South’s President Moon Jae-in in 2018.

Pyongyang “will completely cut off and shut down the liaison line between the authorities of the north and the south, which has been maintained through the north-south joint liaison office”, as well as other communication links “from 12am on June 9, 2020”, the Korean Central News Agency said.

The links being cut also include “the East and West Seas communication lines” between militaries of the two sides, an inter-Korean “trial communication line”, and a hotline between the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and South Korea’s presidential Blue House, KCNA said.

Last week, the North threatened to close the liaison office with the South and warned of further steps to make Seoul “suffer”.

Kim’s powerful sister, Kim Yo-jong, also threatened to scrap a military agreement signed with Seoul unless the South stopped activists from sending the leaflets.

North Korean defectors, which she calls “human scum”, and other activists have long flown balloons across the border carrying leaflets that criticise Kim over human rights abuses and his nuclear ambitions.

‘Betrayers and riff-raff’

KCNA said South Korean authorities connived with “the hostile acts against the DPRK by the riff-raff”, referring to the North by its official acronym.

“This has driven the inter-Korean relations into a catastrophe,” it said.

“We have reached a conclusion that there is no need to sit face-to-face with the South Korean authorities and there is no issue to discuss with them, as they have only aroused our dismay,” KCNA said.

Kim Yo-jong and another top official, Kim Yong-chol, have “stressed that the work towards the south should thoroughly turn into the one against enemy”, the state news agency added.

They decided “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”.

The military pact which Kim Yo-jong has threatened to scrap was signed during Moon’s visit to Pyongyang in 2018 aimed at easing border tensions. But most of the deals have not been acted on.

Pyongyang largely severed contact with Seoul following the collapse of a summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Hanoi last year that left nuclear talks at a standstill.

The nuclear-armed and impoverished North is subject to multiple UN Security Council sanctions over its banned weapons programmes.

Operations at the liaison office have already been suspended because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and Pyongyang has carried out a series of weapons tests in recent months – often describing them as multiple launch rocket systems, although Japan and the US have called them ballistic missiles.

The two sides remain technically at war, since fighting in the Korean War ended with an armistice in 1953 that was never replaced with a peace treaty.