Tensions between North Korea and South Korea remain high days after Pyongyang threatened to restart military exercises in a demilitarised zone. Kim Jong-un’s hermit state sparked outrage after blowing up its joint-liaison office with Seoul, despite a year of taking steps towards peaceful coexistence. Robert Kelly, a political analyst on inter-Korean affairs, debunked Pyongyang’s claim that the tensions are over North Korean defectors sending ‘propaganda’ over the borders.
He told DW News: “It’s probably not because of the leafleting, the North Koreans have endured that.
“They don’t like it obviously, and they’ve taken actions against it in the past.
“But the demolition of the building probably wasn’t really about that.
“There’s been a build-up of North Korean rhetoric in the last few months.”
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Mr Kelly continued: “I think this is sort of a culmination of that rhetoric.
“There’s been a sort of effort to get Moon Jae-in, the President of South Korea, to act independently of the Americans in the international community and strike a deal on North Korea.
“The North Koreans really want sanctions relief, but Moon Jae-in really can’t do that because, one, he’s bound by rules of the UN, and then, politically, he’s bound by the constraints of the American alliance.
“The alliance is very popular in South Korea, so even if Moon would like to go off and do something independently, he really can’t because he would face massive blow back here.”
The two states are technically still at war after their 50-year-old conflict ended in a truce, not an actual peace treaty.
After years of peace efforts, a breakthrough came with the South Korean 2018 Winter Olympics.
Hopes kept growing with an inter-Korean summit a few months later where Pyongyang and Seoul promised to pursue a de-nuclearisation of the peninsula.
There were even talks of a permanent peace deal, especially as US President Donald Trump set foot on North Korean soil.
However, last year, the North again increased its long-range missile tests.