İrem UZUN -TDO- North Korea has blown up a joint liaison office used for talks between itself and South Korea, the latest sign that ties between the two longtime adversaries are rapidly deteriorating. North Korean state media reported that the building, which is located in the town of Kaesong on the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas, was "completely destroyed by an explosion at 2:50 p.m. local time. A plume of black smoke rising above the site was visible from the South Korean side of the border shortly after.

The office, set up in September 2018, was one outcome of the Panmunjeom Declaration announced April 27 that year after the first summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. In Seoul, Moon convened his top security advisers and put the country’s military on higher alert. South Korea’s presidential office said later that it will respond sternly if North Korea continues to raise tensions. The destruction of the office “broke the expectations of all people who hope for the development of inter-Korean relations and lasting peace on the peninsula,” deputy national security adviser Kim You-geun told a briefing. “We’re making clear that the North is entirely responsible for all the consequences this might cause,” he said.

Tensions between North and South Korea have been escalating for weeks, prompted by defector groups in the South sending propaganda across the border. The North Korean leader's sister, Kim Yo-jong threatened at the weekend to demolish the office. "Before long, a tragic scene of the useless North-South joint liaison office completely collapsed would be seen," she had said in her Saturday statement.

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