North Korea cuts communications with South as tension mounts

Among them is a hotline between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in that was established after their summit in 2018 but has never been publicly used by the leaders. Putting the younger sister’s name on the hard-line announcement Tuesday could be a move to address that critique.    South Korean conservative activists, including North Korean defectors living in the South, for years have floated huge balloons into North Korea that carry leaflets criticizing Kim Jong Un over his nuclear ambitions and abysmal human rights record. It’s not the first time North Korea threatened to cut the channels. In response, South Korea’s liberal government, which espouses greater ties with North Korea, repeated that it would work toward restoring peace on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has slammed South Korea for failing to break away from Washington and for not restoring massive joint economic projects held up by U.S.-led sanctions. Officials from the two Koreas usually exchange brief messages twice a day via lower-level channels to check whether they work normally, even if there are no major issues between their governments. Many experts said Kim Yo Jong was viewed as having insufficient military credentials to take over as the country’s new leader when her brother does die. Defense Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo told reporters the South Korean military was monitoring the situation but didn’t say how the South plans to communicate with the North if there’s a need to quickly defuse tensions. The South Korean government has recently said it would push for legal bans on launching leaflets, but the North has said the South Korean response lacks sincerity. South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, said cross-border hotlines must be maintained as they are the basic means of communication between the two Koreas. refusal to lift many of the crippling sanctions on North Korea in return for limited denuclearization steps. North Korea has suspended virtually all cooperation with South Korea as its nuclear negotiations with the United States remain stalemated since the breakdown of a summit between Kim Jong Un and President Trump in early 2019. Some experts say North Korea may be deliberately creating tensions to bolster internal unity or launch a bigger provocation in the face of persistent U.S.-led sanctions. The two Koreas have several phone and fax-like hotline channels across the border as they bar ordinary citizens from exchanging telephone calls, letters and emails.  

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Inocencio notes that Kim Yo Jong’s name came up a lot when her brother, the leader, disappeared for three weeks in April, leading many to speculate about a possible major health problem or even his death. Kim Jong Un has recently stressed the need to bolster his domestic strengths to withstand the sanctions. The North’s Korean Central News Agency said all cross-border communication lines would be cut off in “the first step of the determination to completely shut down all contact means with South Korea and get rid of unnecessary things.”

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The announcement came Tuesday afternoon, when a state TV news anchor broke into programming with an angry message, saying South Korea “should be completely treated like an enemy” and accusing Seoul of driving inter-Korean ties to a state of “catastrophe.”   As CBS News Asia correspondent Ramy Inocencio reports, that kind of rhetoric is par for the course, but what stood out on Tuesday was where the order to cut all communications came from: leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong. First published on June 9, 2020 / 2:47 AM A main sticking point in the U.S.-North Korea diplomacy is a U.S. Relations between the Koreas have been strained during a prolonged deadlock in broader nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington. It said the South Korean government will strive to promote peace while abiding by inter-Korean agreements. The leafleting has long been a source of tensions between the Koreas, since the North bristles at any attempt to undermine the Kim leadership. North Korea cuts communication channels with South as tension mounts

Updated on: June 9, 2020 / 11:29 AM
/ CBS/AP

North Korea cuts off communication with South Korea

Seoul, South Korea — North Korea said it was cutting off all communication channels with South Korea Tuesday as it escalated its pressure on the South for failing to stop activists from floating anti-Pyongyang leaflets across their tense border. In previous cases, North Korea didn’t reply to South Korean phone calls or fax messages for an extended period before it later restored those communication channels when animosities eased. When South Korean officials contacted North Korea via at least four channels on Tuesday morning, North Korea didn’t respond, according to the South Korean government. But many experts say North Korea’s already weak economy must have deteriorated further when the coronavirus pandemic forced it to shut its border with China, the North’s biggest trading partner and aid benefactor. Last week, Kim Yo Jong called the defectors “human scum” and “mongrel dogs” as the North also threatened to permanently shut down a liaison office and a jointly run factory park, as well as nullify a 2018 inter-Korean military agreement that had aimed to reduce tensions. 

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, meets South Korean officials in Incheon, South Korea on February 9, 2018

YONHAP / REUTERS

North Korean citizens have also participated recently in a series of mass rallies opposing the Seoul government, activities the North typically organizes in times of tensions with the outside world.