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North Korea blows up liaison office with South amid growing threats, collapse of U.S. diplomacy

The North Korean flag is seen at mast past the barbed wire fencing of the North Korean embassy in Malaysia on March 27, 2017.

Manan Vatsyayana | AFP | Getty Images

South Korea has accused North Korea of demolishing an inter-Korean liaison office building just north of the border between the two countries on Tuesday morning as tensions continue to escalate on the Korean peninsula.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, confirmed to NBC News that the liaison office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong was demolished “by bombing” on Tuesday afternoon local time.

“We confirm that NK demolished the inter-Korean liaison office in Gaesong Industrial Complex by bombing at 14:49 KST (01:49 ET),” a spokesperson said.

Earlier this month, North Korea threatened to permanently shut the liaison office with South Korea as it condemned its rival for failing to prevent activists from sending anti-North Korean leaflets across the border.

Last week, North Korea cited the same reasons for axing all communications with South Korea, a move analysts believe could be an attempt to manufacture a crisis and force concessions from its neighbor.

North Korea’s military on Tuesday threatened to move back into zones that were demilitarized under inter-Korean peace agreements in 2018 as the country continued to dial up pressure on Seoul amid stalled nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration.

The General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said it’s reviewing a ruling party recommendation to advance into unspecified border areas that had been demilitarized under agreements with the South, which would “turn the front line into a fortress.”

On Sunday, South Korea convened an emergency security meeting after Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, one of his top aides, threatened military action against South Korea in the latest escalation of tensions between the two neighbors.

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In a statement carried Saturday by the state news agency, KCNA, she said she would leave the decision to take the next step of retaliation against South Kora to North Korea’s military.

She also threatened to demolish the “useless” inter-Korean liaison office at the time.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry responded to Kim’s comments by saying it was seriously assessing the situation and carefully monitoring North Korean movements.

Experts have previously told NBC News that North Korea is trying to ratchet up tensions with the South as nuclear talks with Washington remain deadlocked after Kim Jong Un’s last summit with President Donald Trump in 2019 broke down without an agreement, and North Korea desperately needs relief in the face of harsh U.S.-led sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC News has reached out to South Korea’s presidential office for further comment.

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