North Korea has pulled out its staff from an inter-Korean liaison office, according to the South Korean officials, weeks after leader Kim Jong Un‘s summit with US President Donald Trump ended without agreement.
Chun Hae-sung, South Korea‘s unification minister, said that Pyongyang informed Seoul of its decision during a meeting at the liaison office at the North Korean border town of Kaesong on Friday.
The decision had been taken “in accordance with an order from an upper command”, he said, adding: “They said they didn’t care whether we stayed at the liaison office or not.”
It was not clear whether North Korea’s withdrawal of staff would be temporary or permanent.
Chun told reporters that South Korea plans to continue to staff the Kaesong liaison office normally and that it expects the North will continue to allow the South Koreans to commute to the office.
He said Seoul plans to staff the office with 25 people on Saturday and Sunday.
“We regret the North’s decision,” Chun said.
It was not clear whether North Korea’s move would be permanent [Korea Pool/Getty Images]
The office was opened in September as the two Koreas knitted closer ties.
It is the first such Korean office since the peninsula was split into a US-backed, capitalistic South and a Soviet-supported, socialist North in 1945.
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The Koreas had previously used telephone and fax-like communication channels that were often shut down in times of high tension.
The town is where the Korea’s now-stalled jointly run factory complex was located.
It combined South Korean initiatives, capital and technology with North Korea’s cheap labour.
Both Koreas want the US to allow sanctions exemptions to allow the reopening of the factory park, which provided the North with much-needed foreign currency.
Last month, the second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North.
In his New Year speech – a key political event in the North – Kim said without giving details that Pyongyang might see a “new way for defending the sovereignty of the country and the supreme interests of the state” if the US persisted with sanctions.
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