SEOUL • North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un still has an array of options to pressure South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has called for months for talks and sought economic exchanges but has not broken away from the global sanctions regime choking North Korea’s crippled economy.
Here are some actions that might come next:
Mr Kim threatened last October to tear down South Korean-built structures at a North Korean mountain resort, saying they looked like “makeshift tents in a disaster-stricken area”.
The Mount Kumgang resort, built by an affiliate of South Korea’s Hyundai Group and shuttered for more than a decade, opened in 1998 as a symbol of cooperation between two countries technically still at war.
Mr Moon has been pushing for it to reopen.
Just hours before North Korea blew up the liaison office, it said it was reviewing a plan to send troops into some areas of the demilitarised zone that divides the peninsula.
Yesterday, it made clear its intentions by saying it would deploy troops into disarmed areas on its side of the border where it had joint projects with South Korea. These are an area in the western border city of Kaesong where it had a joint factory park and the liaison office and Mount Kumgang on the east, where there was a joint resort.
Troops were moved out to make way for those projects.
Since last year, North Korea has tested several types of short-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting all parts of South Korea, including the United States military bases. These solid-fuel missiles are among the new weapons rolled out under Mr Kim and are easier to hide and deploy than his older rockets.
The arsenal includes the nuclear-capable KN-23 that is designed to avoid US interceptors on the peninsula. Mr Kim could speed up his short-range weapons programme to pressure Seoul, even as he holds fire on launching longer-range missiles.
This is the highest-risk option but one that North Korea has taken before, most notably a decade ago when it was suspected of torpedoing a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors, and a few months later, shelling a South Korean island, killing two soldiers and two civilians.
An attack that goes too far runs the chance of spinning into war.