An image of Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, on television at a train station in Seoul, June 4, 2020. - Lee Jin-man / AP / SIPA

North Korea threatened on Thursday to break the military deal with South Korea and close the cross-border liaison office if Seoul does not prevent activists from sending leaflets across the border.

This statement, which comes from the powerful younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, comes as inter-Korean relations are markedly cooled despite three summits in 2018 with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

North Korean defectors and activists have flown balloons across the border carrying leaflets accusing the North Korean leader of violating human rights and denouncing his nuclear policy. "The South Korean authorities will pay a heavy price if they allow this to continue while making all kinds of excuses," said Kim Yo-jong in a statement issued by the official KCNA news agency.

"Rotten mongrel dogs"

Calling the defectors "human rot" and "rotten mongrel dogs" who betrayed their homeland, she said it was "time to hold their owners to account," referring to the South Korean government. She threatened to close the cross-border liaison office and to break the military agreement, signed during Moon Jae-in's visit to Pyongyang in 2018, which aimed to ease tensions at the border.

However, most of the agreements reached at the meeting were not implemented and North Korea continued to carry out dozens of military tests. Liaison office activities have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kim Yo Jong also threatened to definitively put an end to economic projects between the two nations, in particular concerning the Inter-Korean industrial park of Kaesong and the visits of Mount Kumgang. These two activities, which are lucrative for Pyongyang, have been suspended for years following the sanctions imposed on North Korea because of its banned nuclear and ballistic programs.

Pyongyang had largely ended its ties to Seoul following the failure in February 2019 of the Hanoi summit between Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump. Since then, negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang on the North Korean nuclear and ballistic programs have been deadlocked.

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