North Korea said on Monday that it had cut off its only official channel of diplomatic communications with the United States in retaliation for Washington’s sanctions against its leader, Kim Jong-un, over human rights abuses.
The North’s diplomatic mission to the United Nations in New York notified the United States government of its decision on Sunday to sever the channel, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.
Although the countries have no diplomatic ties, the United Nations mission has long served as a point of contact and was often used to arrange talks aimed at ending the North’s nuclear weapons program.
“Because the United States did not accept our demand that the sanctions be retracted, we are taking concrete actions one by one, the first of which is to completely cut off the New York channel of communication, the only official point of contact that has existed between the two sides,” K.C.N.A. said, citing the notice.
North Korea also said that it would now treat all issues with the United States, including the handling of two Americans held in the North, under its wartime law.
It did not elaborate on how its decision would affect the fate of Kim Dong-chul, a Korean-born American citizen who was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor in April after being convicted of spying and other offenses. Another American, Otto F. Warmbier, is serving 15 years of hard labor for trying to steal a political banner from his hotel in Pyongyang, the capital.
On Wednesday, the United States placed sanctions on Mr. Kim for the first time, accusing him of human rights abuses. It also blacklisted other top officials in North Korea, as well as the intelligence and security ministries there, over abuses including extrajudicial killings, forced labor and torture.
North Korea has called the sanctions “an open declaration of war.”
North Korea is already under heavy sanctions for its nuclear and ballistic missile tests. But by singling out Mr. Kim, its 32-year-old leader, Washington sought to use pressure over human rights as leverage. The North is especially sensitive about outside criticism of its leader, who rules by a personality cult.
Earlier Monday, North Korea threatened an unspecified “physical counteraction” once the United States and South Korea decided on a site in the South to deploy an advanced American missile defense system.
The warning from the North Korean military, carried by K.C.N.A., was its first reaction since South Korea and the United States announced an agreement on Friday to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, system in the South.
The allies said the deployment was to better protect South Korea and the United States military in the region from the North’s growing nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. Officials were expected to reveal the site for a Thaad base this year.
On Monday, North Korea said that the rationale to deploy Thaad was “absurd,” adding that all its military weapons, including an intermediate-range ballistic missile it tested last month, were for self-defense.
North Korea “will take a physical counteraction to thoroughly control Thaad,” the military said in its statement, which characterized the system’s deployment part of an American plan for “world domination.” In addition, the military vowed to act against the system “from the moment its location and place have been confirmed in South Korea.”