UPDATES WITH STATEMENT BY SOUTH KOREA; REPORT FROM NORTH KOREAN MEDIA; DECK CHANGES; EDITS THROUGHOUT
By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ANKARA (AA) – North Korea attacked and blew up the inter-Korean liaison office along the border, South Korean media reported on Tuesday.
Smoke was billowing after an explosion was heard from the border town of Kaesong, where the inter-Korean liaison office is located, according to Yonhap News Agency.
The inter-Korean office was blown up at about 2:49 p.m. local time (0549GMT), South Korea's Unification Ministry said.
Later in the day, Seoul warned of a strong response if Pyongyang “further worsens the situation.”
“The government expresses strong regret over North Korea's unilateral explosion of the inter-Korean liaison office building,” said Kim You-geun, deputy director of the national security office at Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea’s presidential palace.
“We sternly warn that we will strongly respond to it if North Korea takes any action that further worsens the situation,” Kim told reporters after an emergency meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) standing committee.
North Korea’s state-run Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) also confirmed that the liaison office was “completely” destroyed.
“The relevant field of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] put into practice the measure of completely destroying the north-south joint liaison office in the Kaesong Industrial Zone in the wake of cutting off all the communication liaison lines between the north and the south …,” the agency said in a report.
The latest aggression comes after North Korea last Saturday threatened South Korea of military action.
Tensions on the peninsula have increased particularly due to Seoul’s failure to stop anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets from being sent across the border.
Earlier today, North Korea’s military leadership threatened to move its forces into the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries.
According to KCNA, the General Staff of the Korean People's Army said the army is fully ready to go into action.
Last Saturday, Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, had announced she would order the country’s army to plan necessary steps against the “enemy” administration in South Korea.
She had also warned of the collapse of the liaison bureau at the border between the two nations.
However, South Korea's president on Monday urged North Korea "not to stop the peace journey" between the two countries.
"The direction the two Koreas should go together is clear. We should not stop the current inter-Korean relations again, which have overcome a longtime severance and the crisis of war with difficulty," Moon Jae-in said.