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(2nd LD) U.S. urges N. Korea to refrain from 'counterproductive actions'

All News 02:56 June 17, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details, background; ADDS photo)
By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, June 16 (Yonhap) -- The United States urged North Korea on Tuesday to refrain from "further counterproductive actions" after the communist nation blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in anger over anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent by defectors.

The North destroyed the office in its border city of Kaesong earlier Tuesday, following through with its threat to do so and dramatically raising tensions further on the Korean Peninsula.

"The United States fully supports the ROK's efforts on inter-Korean relations and urges the DPRK to refrain from further counterproductive actions," a State Department spokesperson told Yonhap News Agency, using the acronyms for the official names of South Korea, the Republic of Korea; and North Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"We are aware that North Korea destroyed the liaison office in Kaesong and remain in close coordination with our Republic of Korea Allies," a senior U.S. government official told Yonhap earlier.

North Korea has threatened its southern neighbor for days, vowing to cut off all communication lines and possibly take military action.

Earlier Tuesday, the North's military said it is reviewing plans to reenter border areas that were previously disarmed under inter-Korean agreements.

This photo, provided by South Korea's defense ministry, shows the liaison office in Kaesong being blown up on June 16, 2020. (No resales. No archiving) (Yonhap)

South Korea's presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, warned Tuesday it will "respond strongly" if the North takes steps to worsen the situation.

The development marked another setback for inter-Korean relations, which had already been stagnant amid no progress in denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

Analysts said the North appeared to be diverting attention away from its economic troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and tough international sanctions placed on Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The North's targeted attacks on the South were also likely meant to leave the door open for diplomacy with the U.S.

The State Department's response was similar on Saturday when Kim Yo-jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, threatened to take military action against the South.

"The United States has always supported progress in inter-Korean relations, and we are disappointed in the DPRK's recent actions and statements," a department spokesperson said at the time.

"We urge the DPRK to avoid provocations and return to diplomacy and cooperation," he continued, adding that the U.S. remains in close coordination with South Korea on efforts to engage the North.

This AFP file photo shows the U.S. Department of State in Washington. (Yonhap)


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