North Korea has blown up a joint liaison office with the South near the North’s border town of Kaesong.
The move comes just hours after the North renewed threats of military action at the Korean border.
The site was opened in 2018 to help the Koreas – officially in a state of war – to communicate. It had been empty since January due to Covid-19 restrictions.
In a statement, South Korea warned it would “respond strongly” if the North “continues to worsen the situation”.
The destruction of the office, it said, “abandons the hopes of everyone who wanted the development of inter-Korean relations and peace settlement in the Korean Peninsula”.
“The government makes it clear that all responsibility of this situation lies in the North.”
Tensions between North and South Korea have been escalating for weeks, prompted by defector groups in the South sending propaganda across the border.
Why did North Korea destroy the liaison office?
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), using characteristically emphatic language, said the bombing of the building reflected “the mindset of the enraged people to surely force human scum and those, who have sheltered the scum, to pay dearly for their crimes”.
The North Korean leader’s sister, Kim Yo-jong – considered a close and powerful ally – threatened to demolish the office in a statement at the weekend.
Her brother, Kim Jong-un, has ruled North Korea as Supreme Leader since 2011.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry in Seoul confirmed that at 14:49 local time (05:49 GMT) there was an explosion.