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After Just 6 Months, N. Korea Pulls Out of Liaison Office

Move seen as big step backward for inter-Korea relations
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2019 7:11 AM CDT
South and North Korean government officials pose in front of a signboard showing the North Korean capital Pyongyang and South Korean capital Seoul during a groundbreaking ceremony at the Panmun Station...   (South Korea Transport Ministry/Yonhap via AP)
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(Newser) – The relationship between the Koreas has taken another step backward after the collapse of the President Trump-Kim Jong Un summit. South Korean officials say North Korea has pulled out of a joint liaison office set up months ago, reports Reuters. The office was set up after a summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in last year, and the North's withdrawal is a major setback for Moon, the AP reports. South Korea's Unification Ministry says it was told staff would be pulled from the office on the orders of "higher-level" authorities, who did not confirm whether the withdrawal would be temporary or permanent. The move follows Thursday's US blacklisting of two Chinese shipping firms for alleged sanctions-busting.

The opening of the office in the North Korean border city of Kaesong in September was seen as a major step forward that would allow officials from the two countries to communicate regularly for the first time since the Korean War. Seoul has urged North Korea to return to the office as soon as possible, though analysts say the South Korean people are pessimistic about the outlook. "Many started to believe, that after 70 years of false hope, this time would be different," writes BBC correspondent Laura Bicker. "But North Korea is now walking away from the pledges it made and this latest development will be seen by many as a sign that peace is once again a distant prospect." (Read more North Korea stories.)

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