Pyongyang has vowed to send troops back into previously disarmed areas and renew military drills near the border, amid an ongoing spat with Seoul over defectors, inflamed further by the recent demolition of a negotiations outpost.

North Korea will reestablish a troop presence in the Mount Kumgang and Kaesong regions – which both fall just beyond the Demilitarized Zone along the border – and resume “all kinds of regular military exercises,” the Korean People’s Army said on Wednesday, according to Yonhap News.

Mount Kumgang, a resort on North Korea’s east coast, as well as the Kaesong industrial zone were the two major bilateral economic projects that once served as symbols of rapprochement and cooperation between Seoul and Pyongyang.

That thaw seems to be over now, as tensions have soared between the two Koreas in recent weeks, kicked off by complaints from the North that Seoul was not doing enough to stop defectors from sending leaflets and other anti-government literature across the border, often on balloons. 

After threatening to sever all lines of communication with the South earlier this month, on Tuesday Pyongyang destroyed an office building dedicated to talks between the two sides, with the demolition captured on video.

Based in the Kaesong border area, the office was established in 2018 following several rounds of inter-Korean talks, which also produced a military agreement establishing disarmed buffer zones. While the North labeled the office “useless” and vacated its staff in 2019 following a separate dispute, the latest bout of hostilities has seen the facility shuttered for good, with Pyongyang further vowing to scrap the 2018 military agreement.

Seoul has reportedly proposed to send a special envoy to tamp down on tensions, but Pyongyang “flatly” rejected the offer.

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