South Korea's missed phone call with North Korea on Monday wasn't just a one-time hiccup. Though officials in the North did answer a later call, North Korea now says it has cut all communication with its "enemy" to the south, including through the North-South joint liaison office, which has allowed for two daily phone calls between the nations since 2018. North Korea "will completely cut off and shut down the liaison line between the authorities of the North and the South" beginning Tuesday, the Korean Central News Agency reported, per the BBC. It also indicated military communications would end. "There is no issue to discuss with them, as they have only aroused our dismay," KCNA reported.
Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, threatened retaliation last week while commenting on leaflets sent into North Korea by defector groups in the South. But BBC correspondent Laura Bicker suggests this move is "part of a grander plan by Pyongyang" to distract from hardships at home. She notes Kim "is failing to deliver the economic prosperity he keeps promising" amid reports that COVID-19 is taking a toll. "North Korea is in a much more dire situation than we think," Choo Jaewoo of Kyung Hee University tells Reuters. "I think they are trying to squeeze something out of the South." The two countries have technically been at war for 70 years. (Read more North Korea stories.)