We may now know why North Korea was so upset with a recent round of anti-Pyongyang leaflets floated across the border from South Korea. Leaflets launched May 31—two weeks before North Korean officials blew up a joint liaison office—included provocative, Photoshopped images of Kim Jong Un's wife, Ri Sol Ju, according to Russia's ambassador to North Korea. It was "a special kind of dirty, insulting propaganda, aimed at the leader's spouse," says Alexander Matsegora, one of the longest-serving ambassadors in Pyongyang, per AFP. He adds the leaflets caused "serious outrage" and served as "the last straw" for North Korea. The country threatened to send troops to the border but later suspended that plan.
The suspension likely comes out of financial need rather than "a desire to place North-South reconciliation back on track," as months of closed borders "has deprived the North Korean economy of almost all foreign-exchange inflows," Korea Society President Thomas Byrne writes at the Wall Street Journal. It might be too much to hope for concessions during a future meeting of Kim and President Trump. Such a meeting is "probably unlikely between now and the US election" owing to the coronavirus pandemic, US Deputy Secretary of State Steve Biegun says, per the Japan Times. But "we believe there's still time for the United States and North Korea to make substantial progress in the direction that we believe that both sides want to go." (Read more North Korea stories.)