N Korea accuses South of being like a ‘mongrel dog’ as relations worsen

18-Jun-2020 Intellasia | TheGuardian | 6:02 AM Print This Post

North Korea has accused South Korea of behaving like a “mongrel dog” bent on confrontation in a state media report that explains the regime’s decision to blow up a liaison office a move that has significantly raised tensions between the two countries.

A commentary carried by the state KCNA news agency said the South’s defence ministry was “bragging and bluffing, rattling the dialogue partner and stoking a confrontational atmosphere”, and warned that Tuesday’s destruction of the office which opened in 2018 to foster better cross-border ties could be a prelude to a “total catastrophe” in North-South relations.

As the North’s propaganda machine gained momentum, Kim Yo-jong, the powerful younger sister of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, continued her verbal assault on the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, saying in a separate statement that previous inter-Korean agreements had failed because Moon had “put his neck into the noose of pro-US flunkyism”.

The highly personal attacks came as Pyongyang vowed to send soldiers into areas near the border with the South, claiming it had been forced to take action by Seoul’s failure to prevent defector groups from flying anti-Kim propaganda leaflets across the demilitarised zone [DMZ].

The redeployment of troops to the Mount Kumgang resort on the east coast and the Kaesong industrial complex, located just north of the border, would mark another step towards ripping up agreements designed to reduce the potential for conflict along the DMZ, which has divided the peninsula since the end of the 1950-53 Korean war.

A spokesman for the general staff of the [North] Korean People’s Army said troops would be sent to “resume all kinds of regular military exercises” at the two sites. Both projects have been closed for several years, but were once symbols of inter-Korean unity that many hoped would reopen as cross-border ties improved.

It said it would also resume military exercises and re-establish guard posts in border areas, and open front-line sites to enable it to send propaganda leaflets across the border into South Korea.

Those steps would effectively nullify the Panmunjom declaration, signed in September 2018 by Kim Jong-un and Moon, in which they agreed to cease “all hostile acts” in the area.

In response, South Korea’s presidential Blue House said Wednesday that it would “no longer tolerate” North Korean provocations, although it was not clear what, if any, action Seoul was planning. It also described Kim Yo-jong’s comments about Moon as “rude” and “senseless”.

Kim Yeon-chul, South Korea’s top official on North Korea, offered to resign to take the responsibility for the tensions. Yonhap reported that Moon will wait “for a day or two” to decide on the unification minister’s offer.

On Tuesday, the state KCNA news agency said the destruction of the liaison office which served as a de facto embassy for the two Koreas was a “reflection of the zeal our enraged people” felt towards defector groups that send propaganda leaflets into the North. It said South Korea was “fully aware of why the office… came to lose the justification for its existence and had been abandoned”.

Responding to the building’s destruction, a spokesman for the US state department said Washington “fully supports” Seoul’s efforts on inter-Korean relations and urged Pyongyang to “refrain from further counterproductive actions”.

The European Union condemned North Korea’s decision to blow up the building as “unacceptable”.

South Korea’s defence ministry has urged North Korea to abide by the 2018 agreement. The deputy national security advisor, Kim You-geun, said the destruction of the liaison building “broke the expectations of all people who hope for the development of inter-Korean relations and lasting peace”.

Kim Yo-jong rejected a South Korean offer to send special envoys to Pyongyang in an attempt to defuse the situation, calling the proposal “tactless and sinister”, according to KCNA.

Moon “greatly favours sending special envoys for ‘tiding over crises’ and raises preposterous proposals frequently, but he has to clearly understand that such a trick will no longer work on us,” KCNA quoted her as saying.

While the recent rise in tensions is a setback for Moon, a liberal who favours engagement with the North, analysts believe the regime is manufacturing animosity towards the South to send a message to the US.

“North Korea’s sabre-rattling, even if it has so far been directed at Seoul, could eventually lead to heightened tensions with the US,” Tobias Harris and Victor Cha at Teneo Intelligence, a Washington-based consultancy, said in a note.

“It is possible that Pyongyang could be trying to regain Donald Trump’s attention, as the president has been otherwise preoccupied with Covid-19, mass protests, and his reelection prospects.”

Talks on North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes have stalled since a February 2019 summit between Kim Jong-un and Trump ended in failure.

Daniel Russel, the top US diplomat for East Asia until early in Trump’s administration, said: “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.”

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said the destruction of the liaison office was “an act of political violence, symbolising that years of inter-Korean engagement have been reduced to rubble”.

“If Pyongyang creates this much drama ostensibly over leaflets, imagine what it has planned in response to US-South Korea combined exercises this summer.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/17/north-korea-raises-tension-with-pledge-to-send-troops-to-border-with-south

 


Category: Korea

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