North Korea Quits South Korea Liaison Office

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North Korea abruptly withdrew from the inter-Korea liaison office in Kaesong on Friday.

Chun Hae-sung, South Korea's unification minister, said that Pyongyang informed Seoul of its decision during a meeting at the liaison office at the North Korean border town of Kaesong on Friday.

Last month, the second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North.

The United States has led global efforts to press North Korea through sanctions to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Both Koreas want the U.S.to allow sanctions exemptions to allow the reopening of the factory park, which provided the North with much-needed foreign currency.

The Treasury Department, in coordination with the State Department and the U.S. Coast Guard, also updated a North Korea shipping advisory, adding dozens of vessels thought to be doing ship-to-ship transfers with North Korean tankers or exported North Korean coal in violation of sanctions.

It combined South Korean initiatives, capital and technology with North Korea's cheap labour.

It was not clear whether North Korea's move would be permanent
It was not clear whether North Korea's move would be permanent

The surprise withdrawal sends a chill through Moon's efforts for rapprochement with North Korea after the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi broke down over disagreement on sanctions relief for Pyongyang. Chun mentioned the departing North Korean diplomatic officials took documents with them but left most of their equipment behind.

After Reuters' report about the Tantal's ship-to-ship transfers in February, Russia's ambassador to Pyongyang was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying any Russian fuel deliveries to North Korea were legal and mainly by rail.

"The United States and our like-minded partners remain committed to achieving the final, fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea and believe that the full implementation of North Korea-related UN Security Council resolutions is crucial to a successful outcome", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

South Korea's Unification Ministry announced the move Friday, saying the decision had been taken by the North on "instructions from the superior authority".

The official insisted, however, that Thursday's announcement was meant to maintain sanctions enforcement on North Korea rather than intensify the pressure.

On Monday, two senior USA senators called for the Trump administration to correct a slowing pace of American sanctions designations on North Korea, saying such actions had seen a marked decline in the past year of US diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang.

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