North Korea “will completely cut off and shut down” all communication lines with South Korea, state media reported on Tuesday.

According to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the move was in retaliation for Seoul’s “conniving hostile acts” against Pyongyang, which have “driven inter-Korean relations into a catastrophe.”

The decision was taken at a review meeting attended by top officials, including Kim Jong-un’s increasingly influential sister Kim Yo-jong, the KCNA report said.

“The relevant field of our side will completely cut off and shut down the liaison line between the authorities of the North and the South, which has been maintained through the North-South joint liaison office … from noon on June 9,” read an official statement quoted by the agency.

The other links being severed include the East and West Seas military communication lines, an inter-Korean trial communication line, and a hotline between the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and South Korea’s presidential Blue House.

According to the report, North Korea was particularly enraged over Seoul’s failure to stop anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets from being sent over and warned that South Korea would “pay dearly for this.”

“As far as the issue of the dignity of our supreme leadership is concerned, there can neither be a pardon nor an opportunity,” the statement said.

According to the Yonhap News Agency, North Korean military officials did not answer a morning phone call by South Korea on Tuesday, the first such instance since 2018.

“North Korea did not answer our calls via the military communication lines this morning,” the agency quoted Defense Ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo as saying.

Choi said Seoul was closely monitoring the situation.

These developments come just days after Kim Yo-jong threatened to withdraw Pyongyang from an inter-Korean military agreement signed in 2018, which was hailed as a step towards sustained peace.

In a statement last week, the North Korean leader’s sister warned that the military pact would be nullified and other exchanges stopped if Seoul does not defectors from sending propaganda leaflets into the communist country.

* Writing by Islamuddin Sajid

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