Politics

Seoul unable to reach Pyongyang after North vows to cut communication

(Update 1: adds South Korea unable to reach North in pars 5-6, rewrites pars 1-2 and headline, minor edits)

Seoul, June 9 (efe-epa).- Seoul was unable to reach the Pyongyang government Tuesday morning after North Korea announced its decision to cut its lines of communication with South Korea from midday.

In an apparent response to activists in the South sending anti-North leaflets across the border by balloon, the announcement was published by North Korea’s official news agency KCNA in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

“The relevant field of our side 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, the East and West Seas communication lines between the militaries of the north and the south, the inter-Korean trial communication line and the hotline between the office building of the Central Committee of the WPK and the Chongwadae from 12:00 [03:00 GMT] on June 9, 2020,” KCNA said.

This move “is the first step of the determination to completely shut down all contact means with South Korea and get rid of unnecessary things.”

Seoul’s unification ministry said later Tuesday morning that “the liaison office attempted to call North Korea this morning, but the North did not answer,” according to the local Yonhap news agency.

The South’s defense ministry said Pyongyang also did not answer calls via military hotlines.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s regime was considering retaliatory measures last week for the sending of half a million leaflets from the South into the North using balloons.

The statement released by KCNA does not expressly cite the sending of the leaflets as the reason for the cutting of the inter-Korean lines of communication, but refers to maneuvers to “hurt the dignity” of the North Korean dictator and assured that “there can neither be a pardon nor an opportunity.”

For Pyongyang, the “nasty excuses” of the Seoul government on this issue are protected by its freedom of expression laws. The laws in South Korea prevent the use of balloons with anti-North propaganda from being prohibited.

Still, the South Korean unification ministry had urged activists to stop the action, citing the risk to the safety of South Koreans residing along the border.

The announcement picked up by KCNA said the “hostile acts” and “nasty excuses” are leading inter-Korean relations “into a catastrophe.”

The decision was communicated after a meeting on Monday between the vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Kim Yong-chol, and the sister of the North Korean dictator, Kim Yo-jong. EFE-EPA

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