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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea pulls out of inter-Korean liaison office

Move is a sign that Pyongyang intends to suspend nuclear talks with Washington

Officials from both sides of the 38th Parallel attend an opening ceremony for the two Koreas' first liason office in Kaesong, North Korea, in September.    © AP

SEOUL -- North Korea pulled out of a joint inter-Korean liaison office in its border city of Kaesong on Friday, in an another sign that Pyongyang has no intention to resume nuclear talks with Washington.

South Korea's Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung, who co-heads the office with North Korean counterpart Jon Jong Su, said he was notified that North Korea would withdraw by order of an "upper authority."

The office was established in September to help Seoul and Pyongyang discuss inter-Korean projects as part of an agreement between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in a summit in April last year. These projects included the reopening of a joint factory park in the city and a mountain resort in North Korea.

"It is regrettable that the North decided to withdraw. The government wants the North to come back quickly," Chun said in a news conference. "I was told that we could continue to work there."

The announcement came a week after North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said her country was considering suspending nuclear talks with the U.S. Negotiations have been in deadlock since talks between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump collapsed in Hanoi last month.

The presidential Blue House said National Security Office Director Chung Eui-yong hosted an emergency meeting to discuss the North's withdrawal.

Experts say that the move signals that North Korea intends to suspend talks with the U.S. by expressing its uncomfortable sentiments with Seoul.

"North Korea always used to cut relations with the South before cutting relations with the U.S.," said Yang Moo-jin, professor at University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. "It is coming closer to the end of talks between North Korea and the U.S."

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