(ATTN: ADDS gov't response)
By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, June 17 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Wednesday it has rejected South Korea's offer to send special envoys and will redeploy troops to two inter-Korean business zones near the border, unrelentingly ratcheting up tensions a day after the regime blew up a joint liaison office.
The North's disclosure of its rejection of the special envoy proposal shows the regime has no intention to defuse tensions through dialogue and will carry out a series of measures it has threatened to take in anger over propaganda leaflets criticizing its leader.
The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also issued a harshly worded statement lambasting South Korean President Moon Jae-in for failing to apologize for such leafleting and accusing him of "pro-U.S. flunkeyism."
South Korea reacted angrily to the North's moves, with the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae slamming the North Korean leader's sister, Kim Yo-jong, for her "rude" and "senseless" criticism and warning it will no longer tolerate such "indiscreet" words and acts.
It also denounced the North's disclosure of its special envoy offer as an "unprecedentedly senseless act."
The defense ministry warned that the North will pay the price if it actually takes military action, and the unification ministry expressed "strong regret" over the North's plan to send troops to the joint economic zones.
Earlier, the General Staff of the North's Korean People's Army said it will send troops to the now-shuttered inter-Korean industrial complex in its border city of Kaesong and the Mount Kumgang tourist zone on the east coast -- two key symbols of inter-Korean reconciliation.
The North also said it will restore guard posts removed from the Demilitarized Zone separating the two sides and resume "all kinds of regular military exercises" near the inter-Korean border in an apparent move to abolish a military tension-reduction deal signed in 2018.
These measures came a day after the North blew up the liaison office building in Kaesong.
"Units of the regiment level and necessary firepower sub-units with defense mission will be deployed in the Mount Kumgang tourist area and the Kaesong Industrial Zone," a spokesperson of the General Staff said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
"Civil police posts that had been withdrawn from the Demilitarized Zone under the north-south agreement in the military field will be set up again to strengthen the guard over the front line," it said.
North Korea has taken a series of retaliatory action against South Korea, denouncing the sending of leaflets criticizing its leadership and regime by defectors and other activists as an act that breaches inter-Korean agreements.
Pyongyang has vowed to deal with South Korea as an "enemy," cutting off all cross-border communication lines, and threatened to take other measures, including military action. It also has threatened to dismantle a now-shuttered joint industrial park in Kaesong and scrap the 2018 military deal the two Koreas signed to reduce cross-border tensions.
On Tuesday, the KPA's General Staff warned that it is reviewing an action plan to advance into "the zones that had been demilitarized under the north-south agreement, turn the front line into a fortress and further heighten the vigilance" against the South.
In a surprise move later on the same day, North Korea blew up the inter-Korean joint liaison office in Kaesong in anger over the leafleting issue. The explosion sparked concern that the North could put other threats against the South into action, including taking military action.
South Korea expressed strong regret and warned it would sternly respond if the North takes more action to escalate tension. Washington also urged the North to refrain from "further counterproductive actions."
The demolition of the liaison office marked the latest setback in inter-Korean relations, which have been almost stalled since a no-deal summit between Pyongyang and Washington in February last year.
In October, North Korea demanded the South tear down all "unpleasant-looking" facilities at the now-shuttered Mount Kumgang resort on its east coast. Launched in 1998, the tour program was a symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation, but it has been put on hold since 2008, when a South Korean tourist was shot dead near the resort for allegedly trespassing in an off-limits area.
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