By Lee Haye-ah
WASHINGTON, June 8 (Yonhap) -- The United States supports inter-Korean cooperation and works with South Korea to ensure cooperation proceeds together with progress in North Korea's denuclearization, the State Department said Monday amid Pyongyang's threats to abolish a joint liaison office with Seoul.
North Korea threatened last week to shut down the office in the border city of Kaesong unless Seoul stops North Korean defectors and activists from sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets into the North.
"The United States supports inter-Korean cooperation and coordinates with our ROK ally to ensure inter-Korean cooperation proceeds in lockstep with progress on denuclearization," a State Department spokesperson said in response to a Yonhap query, referring to South Korea by the acronym for its official name, the Republic of Korea.
The leaflets have annoyed Pyongyang because they contain messages sharply critical of the regime and its leader, in addition to one-dollar bills and USB memory sticks that are meant to encourage North Koreans to pick them up.
The South Korean government has said the activists are exercising their right to freedom of speech.
In response to the latest threats, however, the government said it will work to legislate a ban on sending the leaflets.
Inter-Korean relations have deteriorated as nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang have ground to a halt amid differences over the scope of North Korea's denuclearization and sanctions relief from the U.S.
The two Koreas saw a period of increased exchanges in 2018 when President Moon Jae-in held several meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and was credited with facilitating the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim.
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