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The demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office building in Kaesong, North Korea The demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office building in Kaesong, North Korea, June 16, 2020 (Korean Central News Agency photo via AP Images).

Why North Korea Blew Up Its Détente With the South

Friday, June 19, 2020

What a difference two years makes. The spring and summer of 2018 saw an extraordinary rapprochement between the two Koreas, as their leaders held successive face-to-face meetings, culminating in a landmark visit by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang. The flurry of diplomacy produced a number of joint declarations, agreements, hotlines and other confidence-building measures, including an inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong, just 6 miles into North Korean territory from the Demilitarized Zone. It was the first full-time communication channel and served as a de facto embassy between the two sides, which are technically still at war having not signed a peace agreement after the Korean War ended in 1953.

Much of the progress of the past two years came crashing down this week when North Korea used controlled explosives to destroy the liaison building, which had been largely unused since January due to the coronavirus pandemic. The blast, powerful enough to shatter windows of nearby buildings, was clearly designed to send a message. ...

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