South Korea on Sunday convened an emergency security meeting and urged North Korea to uphold reconciliation agreements, hours after the North threatened to demolish a liaison office and take military action against its rival.
North Korea has recently abruptly resumed a fiery rhetoric against its southern neighbor, accusing it of failing to prevent activists from launching propaganda leaflets across their border.
Some experts say North Korea is expressing its deep frustration over Seoul”s failure to revive lucrative joint economic projects and over a lack of progress in nuclear diplomacy with Washington.
South Korea”s national security director, Chung Eui-yong, held an emergency video conference with ministers in charge of security and military generals on Sunday morning to discuss the latest situation on the Korean Peninsula and the government”s possible steps, the presidential Blue House said in a statement.
The Unification Ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, later issued a statement saying that both Koreas must strive to abide by all agreements they have reached. It said the South Korean government “views the current situation as grave.”
On Saturday night, Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, warned that Seoul will soon witness “a tragic scene of the useless North-South liaison office (in North Korea) being completely collapsed.”
She also said she would leave to North Korea”s military the right to take the next step of retaliation against South Korea.
North Korea earlier suspended communication lines with South Korea and threatened to nullify 2018 agreements that led the Koreas to halt firing exercises, remove some land mines and tear down guard posts in front-line areas.
Some observers say the end of the 2018 deals could allow North Korea to send ships across the disputed sea boundary, float down mines on a border river or take other provocative steps at the border area.
But it”s still unclear if the North would go ahead with its threat to destroy the liaison office, which was built at a North Korean border town following a 2018 summit between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Such a move could deepen anti-Pyongyang sentiments make it difficult for the North to restore ties with South Korea when needed.
North Korea may be deliberately building up tensions to bolster its internal unity and pressure the United States to do something to resume the nuclear talks that have largely been stalled for more than a year, some experts say.
They say North Korea desperately needs sanctions relief as its economy had likely worsened in the face of harsh U.S.-led sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic that forced it to close its border with China, its biggest trading partner.
On the two-year anniversary of the first summit between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon said Friday that the North would never again gift Trump with high-profile meetings he could boast as foreign policy achievements unless it gets something substantial in return.