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North Korea destroyed the joint liaison office in the border town of Kaesong on Tuesday in a “terrific explosion”. Daniel Russel of the Asia Society warned the move is a reminder to Mr Kim’s rivals that North Korea “cannot be ignored” – and said something bigger is coming.
Mr Russel said: “Blowing up the North-South Liaison Office conveys Kim Jong-un’s graphic rejection of President Moon’s attempts at rapprochement.
“It is also a reminder to the United States that North Korea cannot be ignored.
“Ramping up pressure through escalating provocations is how Kim makes the point that without sanctions relief, sooner or later he will also blow up Trump’s claim to have ‘ended the threat’ from North Korea.”
North Korea blew up the joint liaison office in response to defectors in the South sending propaganda leaflets to the North.
North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said the office, which was set up in 2018 to boost communication with the South, was “ruined with a terrific explosion”.
In a statement South Korea warned it would “respond strongly” if the North “continues to worsen the situation”.
It said the destruction of the office “abandons the hopes of everyone who wanted the development of inter-Korean relations and peace settlement in the Korean Peninsula”.
It added: “The government makes it clear that all responsibility of this situation lies in the North.”
In response to the blowing up of the office the US said it supports Seoul’s efforts to build inter-Korean relations and urged Pyongyang to “refrain from further counterproductive actions”.
A spokesman for the US State Department said: “The United States fully supports the ROK’s efforts on inter-Korean relations and urges the DPRK to refrain from further counterproductive actions.”
Mr Trump first met Mr Kim at a historic summit in Singapore in 2018 on denuclearisation.
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The two leaders met for a second time in Hanoi in February 2019.
They also had a brief meeting at the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas in June 2019.
But the meetings failed to lead to a breakthrough.
The US has refused to lift crippling economic sanctions until North Korea abandons its nuclear programme.
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