North Korea said Tuesday it’ll cut off all communication channels with South Korea as it escalates its pressure on the South for failing to stop activists from floating anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday it will be “the first step of the determination to completely shut down all contact means with South Korea and get rid of unnecessary things.”
KNCA says all cross-border communication lines will be cut off at Tuesday noon.
“The South Korean authorities connived at the hostile acts against [North Korea] by the riff-raff, while trying to dodge heavy responsibility with nasty excuses,” KCNA said.
In recent days, North Korea has increasingly expressed its anger over the leafleting by threatening to permanently shut down a liaison office with South Korea and a jointly run factory park, as well as nullify a 2018 inter-Korean tension-reduction agreement.
The North Korean threats came amid a prolonged deadlock in its broader nuclear diplomacy with the United States, which has subsequently led to the straining of inter-Korean ties.
South Korea has no immediate response to the North Korean announcement. But it has recently said it would push for new legal steps to ban activists from launching leaflets in an attempt to save faltering ties with North Korea. But the North has countered the South Korean response lacks sincerity.
The leafleting has been a long-running source of tensions between the two Koreas. In recent years, North Korean defectors and conservative activists have floated huge balloons carrying leaflets criticizing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over his nuclear ambitions and abysmal human rights record. The North, which bristles at any outside attempt to undermine the Kim leadership, has often made a furious response to the South Korean government.
South Korea has typically let activists launch such balloons, citing their rights to exercise freedom of speech, but it sometimes sent police officers to stop them from floating leaflets in times of tensions with North Korea.