June 16, 2020

Some overnight breaking news from CNN:

"South Korean officials say that North Korea has blown up -- that is, literally blown up the liaison office it shared with them," Jim Sciutto said.

"It is the latest sign of sharply rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, and of course, the apparent failure of three years of U.S. diplomacy with North Korea, President Trump and Chairman Kim. CNN's Will Ripley is live in Hong Hong. First, Will, tell us the significance of this truly alarming step, blowing up the office meant to allow for diplomacy between the two countries."

"North Korea's certainly trying to send a message, Jim, and sending it pretty strongly, blowing up their liaison office, which isn't that far from where President Trump and Kim Jong-un shook hands along the demilitarized zone, when President Trump made that impromptu visit at a time that there was still hope that diplomacy could be salvaged.

"North Korea now very strongly saying that diplomacy has all but ended. And in fact, they believe it has ended so much that they decided to blow up the building that they shared up until January with South Korean government officials. The liaison office was a place where the North and South could work in separate offices but get together and meet, if they needed to, but there hasn't been a lot to discuss lately and North Korea's been very upset in recent days, Jim, after defectors sent balloons into North Korea that dropped down leaflets that they view as, you know, extremely provocative in terms of its language against Kim Jong-un's regime.

"Of course, we don't know where Kim is in all of this because it's his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, who's been calling all the shots. We've barely seen Kim in public in the past few months, aside from that ribbon cutting at a fertilizer factory after our reporting that he might have had a health scare."

"Will, where does this leave U.S. diplomacy with North Korea? The president invested enormously in this. Three face-to-face summits, discussion of his love letters, suspension of U.S./South Korean military exercises. North Korea says it's no longer interested in speaking to the U.S.," Sciutto said.

"Diplomacy's pretty much dead at this point, Jim. And I think that we can expect to see North Korea starting to push these pressure points as they try to get attention. They're frustrated that sanctions are still in place. Their economy is still, you know, struggling in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. And you know, a lack of communication with the rest of the world. So, this is North Korea starting to deliberately ramp up the situation on the peninsula to get the attention of South Korea, but also to get the attention of the U.S.

"The question is, how far will they go? They blew up a building on their own soil because this was in North Korean territory where this explosion took place. What happens if they start attacking locations that are in South Korea? For example, where those balloons were launched from? That's what we have to watch for very closely."

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