Pyongyang is taking a new step forward in its stated desire to cut all relations with Seoul. According to the official North Korean agency KCNA, the North Korean Parliament announced on Tuesday January 16 the dissolution of several agencies working for dialogue and reunification with the South.

“The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, the National Economic Cooperation Office and the International Tourism Administration, tools which existed for dialogue, negotiations and cooperation [North-South], are abolished,” declared the Supreme People’s Assembly, adding that the northern government would take “practical measures” to implement the decision. The neighbors have still technically been at war since 1953, the fighting having been stopped by an armistice and not a peace treaty.

Parliament says the two Koreas are now engaged in an “acute confrontation” and that the North would be making a grave mistake if it viewed the South as a diplomatic partner.

In a speech to the assembly, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un blamed South Korea and the United States for increasing tensions in the region. He said it had become impossible for the North to pursue reconciliation and peaceful reunification with the South, and called on Parliament to rewrite the North’s constitution when it next meets to define South Korea as the ” first hostile country in the North,” according to KCNA.

Acceleration of military preparations

In their respective constitutions, South and North Korea claim sovereignty over the entire Korean peninsula. Founded 75 years ago, they each consider the other an illegal entity.

The meager contacts between them serving as diplomatic relations were managed by the South Korean Ministry of Unification and the North Korean Committee for Peaceful Reunification, one of the organizations closed by Pyongyang. The National Economic Cooperation Office and the Mount Kumgang International Tourism Administration were established to manage joint economic and tourism projects between the Koreas during a brief period of reconciliation in the 2000s. These projects were interrupted as relations between the rivals worsened because of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions despite being prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions.

Mr. Kim has stepped up his weapons demonstrations in recent months. The United States and its allies Seoul and Tokyo responded by stepping up their combined military exercises, which Kim condemned as invasion rehearsals, and refining their nuclear deterrent strategies.

In late December, Kim Jong-un ordered the acceleration of military preparations for a “war” that could “be unleashed at any time.” On Wednesday, he described South Korea as the country’s “main enemy” that he would not hesitate to “annihilate.”