North Korea said on Monday it has told the United States it will sever the only channel of communication between them, at the United Nations in New York, after Washington blacklisted leader Kim Jong Un last week for human rights abuses.
All matters related to the United States, including the handling of American citizens detained by Pyongyang, will be conducted under its “wartime law,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said.
Two Americans known to be detained in North Korea include Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March for trying to steal an item with a propaganda slogan, according to North Korean state media. The other, Korean-American Kim Dong Chul, is serving a 10 year sentence for espionage, state media said.
The move is the latest escalation of tension with the isolated country, which earlier on Monday threatened a “physical response” after the United States and South Korea said they would deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea.
Pyongyang said, “The Republic will handle all matters arising between us and the United States from now on under our wartime laws, and the matters of Americans detained are no exception to this.” It was not clear how “wartime laws” would affect the handling of the two Americans detained. But North Korea has indicated in the past that wartime laws would mean that detainees will not be released on humanitarian grounds.
The North and the United States remain technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War, in which Washington sided with the South, ended only with a truce.