North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office building on June 16th. This is the latest sign that the relationship between the longtime adversaries is rapidly breaking down. The office was located in the town of Kaesong, just north of the demilitarized zone ( DMZ ) that divides the two Koreas. The four-story building was completely destroyed by a terrific explosion. The liaison office had been closed since January 30th due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, so no South Korean staff were in the building at the time. North Korea framed its decision to destroy the liaison office as a retaliatory measure after a group of defectors used balloons to send anti-North Korean leaflets north of the DMZ.
South Korea expressed “strong regret” and will “not endure” further insults or aggression from the North, Seoul’s presidential Blue House said in a series of statements. The South Korean unification minister took responsibility for the worsening of inter-Korean relations and offered his resignation on June 17th over the sharp rise in tensions. The US State Department urged North Korea to refrain from any further actions, while the EU also called for restraint and condemned Pyongyang’s decision to blow up the building as “unacceptable”.