North Korea 'blows up joint liaison office' with South as tensions rise

16 June 2020, 09:05

Thick smoke going up from the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong
Thick smoke going up from the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

North Korea has blown up an inter-Korean liaison office just north of the border according to South Korean officials as tensions rise on the Korean Peninsula.

The move comes just hours after North Korea renewed threats of military action against the South with Kim Jong Un's country slashing all communication with it's southern neighbour.

The office building was opened two years ago as part of a move to help the two countries communicate with some another.

The liaison office has been empty since January due to coronavirus restrictions.

Tensions between the two Koreas have been rising for weeks as defector groups in the south send propaganda north of the border. Defector groups regularly send helium-filled balloons with leaflets and other items, including USB sticks, into the north.

Kim Yo-jong the sister of the North Korean leader threatened to demolish the office in a "tragic scene" in a statement at the weekend.

On Saturday night, Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of 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 North Korea's military would have the right to take the next step of retaliation against the South.

This file photo, taken in September 2018, shows the inter-Korean joint liaison office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong
This file photo, taken in September 2018, shows the inter-Korean joint liaison office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong. Picture: PA

Seoul's unification ministry said the building in the North Korean border town of Kaesong was destroyed at 2.49pm local time (6.49am BST).

Photos from Yonhap News Agency showed smoke rising from what appears to be a complex of buildings.

The agency said the area was part of a now-closed industrial park where the liaison office was located.

Some experts say North Korea is expressing its frustration because Seoul is unable to resume joint economic projects due to US-led sanctions.

In 2018, the rival Koreas opened their first liaison office at Kaesong to facilitate better communication and exchanges since their division at the end of the Second World War in 1945.

When the office opened, relations between the Koreas flourished after North Korea entered talks on its nuclear weapons programme.

Earlier on Tuesday, North Korea's military threatened to move back into zones that were demilitarized under inter-Korean peace agreements.