North shuts down diplomatic channel with U.S.

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North shuts down diplomatic channel with U.S.

North Korea shut down its only diplomatic channel with the United States on Monday in protest of Washington’s unprecedented move to target North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for his role in gross human rights violations.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Monday that Pyongyang notified the U.S. government of its decision to shut down the North Korea-U.S. communication channel in New York, which it described as the “only official contact point” between the two countries.

“In the notification, our government strongly condemned the U.S.’s sanctions, which infringe upon our supreme leadership,” said the KCNA, which called Washington’s move to blacklist Kim Jong-un and other senior officials for their grave human rights violations a “hideous crime” and a “declaration of war.”

Pyongyang also warned that the Obama administration’s decision, which came as a surprise given its blatant tone and decision to target North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, will affect cases regarding American citizens held in North Korea.

Pyongyang also said the United States is solely to be blamed for whatever negative consequences result.

Last Wednesday, the U.S. Department of State compiled a list of 15 North Korean senior officials and eight agencies responsible for the violation of human rights in a new report and submitted it to Congress.

The Department of Treasury on the same day added to its blacklist five entities and 11 top officials in North Korea, including Kim, to hold them accountable for Pyongyang’s human rights abuses.

The sanctions enable the freezing of any property or assets within U.S. jurisdiction of anyone or any entity on the list and can also prohibit financial transactions with American citizens.

Following the announcement, the North has made a flurry of angry responses over the past few days, claiming the U.S. statement was “peppered with lies and fabrications” and demanding that the latest sanctions be withdrawn.

The North’s frantic response was widely expected as the U.S. government targeted Kim Jong-un, who the North places at the center of a cult of personality along with his grandfather Kim Il Sung, the state founder, and his father Kim Jong-il.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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