North Korea Blows Up De Facto Embassy with South Korea

South Korean soldiers walk down from their guard post near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, June 16, 2020. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

North Korea destroyed a de facto embassy shared with its peninsula neighbor on Monday, further escalating tensions just hours after threatening to move military forces back into the demilitarized zone.

South Korea said the destruction of the building, which was opened with great fanfare in 2018 to facilitate communications in the absence of formal diplomatic ties, “abandons the hopes of everyone who wanted the development of inter-Korean relations and peace settlement in the Korean Peninsula.”

“The government makes it clear that all responsibility of this situation lies in the North,” the South added. North Korea’s state media said that the four-story building was “tragically ruined with a terrific explosion.” In March 2019, North Korea said it was withdrawing from the office after failed summit with the United States.

Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un, threatened to destroy the building in a statement Saturday, calling it “useless.”

“If the South Korean authorities have now [the] capability and courage to carry out at once the thing they have failed to do for the past two years, why are the north-south relations still in stalemate?” she said.

North Korea has ramped up tensions in recent weeks, with the foreign minister saying last week that “even a slim ray of optimism for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula has faded away into a dark nightmare.”

In a statement marking the second anniversary of President Donald Trump’s meeting with dictator Kim Jong-un, North Korea said it would continue to boost production of nuclear weapons, in order “to build up a more reliable force to cope with the long-term military threats from the U.S.”

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