N Korea abolishes agencies working for reunification with South

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Kim Jong Un threatened South Korea with war if “even 0.001 mm” of the North’s territory is violated, as Pyongyang abolished agencies that oversaw cooperation and reunification, state media said Tuesday.

The North Korean leader also said Pyongyang would not recognise the two countries’ de facto maritime border, the Northern Limit Line, and called for constitutional changes allowing the North to “occupy” Seoul in war, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

In Seoul, President Yoon Suk Yeol told his cabinet that should the nuclear-armed North carry out a provocation, South Korea would hit back with a response “multiple times stronger”, pointing to his military’s “overwhelming response capabilities”.

The hawkish rhetoric on both sides of the border follows a sharp deterioration of inter-Korean ties in recent months, with Pyongyang’s November spy satellite launch prompting Seoul to partially suspend a 2018 military agreement aimed at defusing tensions.

Pyongyang’s decision to jettison the agencies charged with overseeing cooperation and reunification with the South was announced by the North’s rubber-stamp parliament, KCNA said, part of a string of recent measures that have escalated tensions, including live-fire artillery drills and missile launches.

In a speech delivered at the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim called for drawing up new legal measures to define South Korea as “the most hostile state”, KCNA reported.

“If the Republic of Korea violates even 0.001 mm of our territorial land, air and waters, it will be considered a war provocation,” Kim said.

The decision comes shortly after Kim labelled South Korea the “principal enemy” and stated that continuing to seek reconciliation was a “mistake”.

In their constitutions, both North and South Korea claim sovereignty over the whole of the peninsula.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Republic of Korea — the North and South’s official names — were founded 75 years ago but still technically regard each other as illegal entities.

 

Analysts said Kim’s shift in approach to the South was “reckless” and a rejection of years of official state policy.

 Weapons tests 

At Pyongyang’s year-end policy meetings, Kim threatened a nuclear attack on the South and called for a build-up of his country’s military arsenal ahead of armed conflict he warned could “break out any time”.

On Sunday, the North launched a solid-fuel hypersonic missile, just days after Pyongyang staged live-fire exercises near the country’s tense maritime border with South Korea, which prompted counter-exercises and evacuation orders for some border islands belonging to the South.

Kim also successfully put a spy satellite into orbit late last year, after receiving what Seoul said was Russian help, in exchange for arms transfers for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

Traditional allies Russia and North Korea have boosted ties recently, with Kim making a rare overseas trip to see President Vladimir Putin in Russia’s far east in September.

On Monday, a North Korean government delegation headed by Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui arrived in Moscow for an official visit, KCNA reported.

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