Smoke is seen rising in the border city of Kaesong after North Korea demolished the inter-Korean liaison office there on Tuesday afternoon amid rising tensions with the South. Photo by Yonhap
SEOUL, June 16 (UPI) -- Days after issuing a warning, North Korea demolished the inter-Korean liaison office in the border city of Kaesong on Tuesday, ratcheting up the tension on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea destroyed the office at 2:49 p.m. local time, South Korea's Ministry of Unification confirmed.
North Korean state-run media reported on the demolition, saying that "the liaison office was tragically ruined with a terrific explosion."
The destruction was done "corresponding to the mindset of the enraged people to surely force human scum and those, who have sheltered the scum, to pay dearly for their crimes," the Korean Central News Agency wrote.
Pyongyang has been regularly releasing angry statements and threats against Seoul for nearly two weeks, triggered by the longstanding practice of North Korean defectors sending information leaflets across the border via balloons.
Residents on the southern side of the border saw smoke and heard an explosion in the North Korean city, news agency Yonhap reported.
Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, specifically threatened the office on Saturday, saying in a statement that "before long, a tragic scene of the useless north-south joint liaison office completely collapsed would be seen."
Earlier on Tuesday, the North Korean military issued a statement saying it was "studying an action plan for taking measures to make the army advance again into the zones that had been demilitarized under the north-south agreement."
The inter-Korean liaison office was established in September 2018 to facilitate cooperation and communication between the two Koreas during a period of rapprochement marked by summits between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un.
Last week, North Korea cut off all communications with the South after repeatedly complaining in state-run media about the information leaflets being sent across the border by defectors.
The South Korean government expressed "strong regret" over the demolition of the liaison office, the director of the National Security Council said in a statement texted to reporters on Tuesday evening after an emergency meeting was convened by Moon.
Calling the destruction "a violation of the expectations of all who wish to develop inter-Korean relations," the government said that the "responsibility for the incidents arising from it lies entirely with the North."
"We strictly warn that if the North continues to take steps to exacerbate the situation, we will respond strongly," the NSC statement concluded.