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North Korea to deploy troops to demilitarized areas, restart drills

North Korea to deploy troops to demilitarized areas, restart drills
South Korean marines patrol a beach on Yeonpyeong Island bordering North Korea on Wednesday as Pyongyang announced it would deploy troops to demilitarized areas one day after it blew up the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, June 16 (UPI) -- North Korea announced Wednesday it would deploy troops to the Kaesong Industrial Zone and Mount Kumgang tourist area, locations that were once the sites of joint economic ventures with South Korea, as Pyongyang continued to ratchet up tensions a day after it demolished an inter-Korean liaison office.

The North will also reinstall guard posts that had been removed from the Demilitarized Zone and conduct military drills in border areas, according to a statement by a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People's Army.

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"Civil police posts that had been withdrawn from the Demilitarized Zone under the North-South agreement in the military field will be set up again to strengthen the guard over the front line," the statement said.

The two Koreas each removed 11 guard posts from the DMZ as part of a 2018 inter-Korean military agreement designed to reduce tension.

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North Korea will "resume all kinds of regular military exercises in the areas close to the boundary," the statement, carried on state-run Korean Central News Agency, continued.

Pyongyang has been issuing angry statements and threats against Seoul regularly over the past two weeks, triggered by the practice of North Korean defectors sending information leaflets across the border via balloons.

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Last week, North Korea severed communications lines with the South and on Tuesday the communist state blew up the inter-Korean liaison office in its border city of Kaesong, saying the action was done "to force human scum and those who have sheltered the scum to pay dearly for their crimes."

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The office had been established in September 2018 to facilitate cooperation and communication between the two Koreas during a period of rapprochement marked by a series of summits between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

South Korea's National Security Council expressed "strong regret" over the demolition on Tuesday and said it would "respond strongly" if the North takes further actions to exacerbate the situation.

In an unsigned commentary in KCNA, North Korea warned Wednesday that the destruction of the liaison office could be a "prelude to the total catastrophe of the North-South relations" and threatened Seoul directly.

RELATED North Korea blows up inter-Korean liaison office in border city of Kaesong

"Wrong words and actions are bound to bring ensuing result," the commentary said. "It can be the story of setting Seoul on fire that was raised long ago or more horrible threats, and the [S]outh Korean authorities have to take care of themselves just in case."

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Pyongyang also rejected what it claims was an offer by South Korea to send special envoys to defuse hostilities.

"Upon the urgent message sent by the south side in a hurry, Kim Yo Jong, first vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, made known the stand that we flatly reject the tactless and sinister proposal," the KCNA said.

The bellicose actions and rhetoric from North Korea are the latest setbacks in a peace process that has stalled out since a summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un last year failed to produce an agreement on issues such as sanctions relief for the North and a timetable for proceeding with denuclearization.

Moon's administration, which has been eager to restart joint economic projects with the North, has moved to rein in the defector groups responsible for sending the leaflets. Last week, the government announced it would press charges against two activist groups, while police and the coast guard have stepped up patrols at border areas.

North Korea said Wednesday it would respond by sending leaflets of its own.

"Areas favorable for scattering leaflets against the South will open on the whole front line and our people's drive for scattering leaflets will be guaranteed militarily and thorough-going security measures will be taken," the spokesman for the Korean People's Army said via KCNA.

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