İrem UZUN -TDO- North Korea has announced that it will sever hotlines with South Korea as the first step towards shutting down all contact with Seoul, in retaliation for actions taken by defectors who have been sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border. State news agency KCNA made the announcement on Tuesday as Seoul also confirmed that Pyongyang had refused to receive calls from its liaison office after making the threat.

Relations between the Koreas have been strained during a prolonged deadlock in broader nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington. Some experts say North Korea may be deliberately creating tensions to bolster internal unity or launch a bigger provocation in the face of persistent U.S.-led sanctions. The North’s Korean Central News Agency said all cross-border communication lines will be cut off in “the first step of the determination to completely shut down all contact means with South Korea and get rid of unnecessary things.” South Korean government repeated that it will work toward restoring peace on the Korean Peninsula in its response to the warning.

Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister and a key adviser of Kim Jong Un, has been part of the decision-making on cutting communications with South Korea. Yong also threatened to scrap a military agreement signed with Seoul unless the South stopped activists from sending the leaflets. State agency KCNA said Tuesday that Kim Yo Jong, and another top official, Kim Yong Chol, have "stressed that the work towards the South should thoroughly turn into the one against enemy."

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