North Korea said on Wednesday that it would redeploy troops to demilitarised border areas, and rejected South Korea’s offer to send special envoys to ease tensions in a further blow to the 2018 accord between the two Koreas.
State media agency KCNA announced the moves a day after Pyongyang destroyed the joint liaison office set up in the border town of Kaesong as part of the agreement in a major escalation of the dispute about leaflets sent by defectors into the reclusive state.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in on Monday offered to send his national security adviser Chung Eui-yong and spy chief Suh Hoon as special envoys. But Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a senior governing party official, “flatly rejected the tactless and sinister proposal,” KCNA said.
Moon “greatly favours sending special envoys for ‘tiding over crises’ and raises preposterous proposals frequently, but he has to clearly understand that such a trick will no longer work on us,” KCNA said.
“The solution to the present crisis between the North and the South caused by the incompetence and irresponsibility of the South Korean authorities is impossible and it can be terminated only when proper price is paid.”
There was no immediate comment from Moon’s office.
Any moves to undo cross-border peace deals would be a major setback to Moon’s bid for more lasting reconciliation with North Korea, and would further complicate already stalled efforts to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile programmes.
Kim Yo Jong also harshly criticised Moon in another KCNA statement, saying he had failed to implement any of the 2018 pacts and had made inter-Korean ties a “US puppet.”
In Monday’s speech, which marked the 20th anniversary of the first inter-Korean summit, Moon expressed regret that North Korea-US and inter-Korean relations had not progressed as hoped but urged Pyongyang to maintain peace deals and return to dialogue.
In a separate KCNA report on Wednesday, a spokesman for the General Staff of the (North) Korean People’s Army (KPA) said it would dispatch troops to Mount Kumgang and Kaesong near the border, where the two Koreas previously carried out joint economic projects.
Police posts that had been withdrawn from the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) would be reinstalled, while artillery units near the western sea border where defectors frequently send leaflets would be reinforced with the readiness alert heightened to the level of “top-class combat duty”, the spokesman said.
North Korea will also resume its own propaganda campaign, sending anti-Seoul leaflets across the border, he added.
“Areas favourable 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,” he said.
NEW: North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun leads with the demolition of Kaesong Liaison Office at the top of page two. pic.twitter.com/sVPx7buBNC
The KPA said on Tuesday that it had been studying an “action plan” to re-enter zones that had been demilitarised under a 2018 inter-Korean military pact and “turn the front line into a fortress”.
Seoul’s defence ministry has urged North Korea to abide by the agreement, under which both sides agreed to cease “all hostile acts” and dismantled a number of structures along the DMZ.