North Korea cuts off communication with US after sanctions

North Korea cuts off communication with US after sanctions

North Korea is severing its only official line of communication with the United States, the country announced Monday, incensed by recent sanctions against supreme leader Kim Jong Un and the pending deployment of a missile defense system to South Korea.

"As the United States will not accept our demand for the immediate withdrawal of the sanctions measure, we will be taking corresponding actions in steps," the country’s official KCNA news agency said, according to Reuters. "As the first step, we have notified that the New York contact channel that has been the only existing channel of contact will be completely severed.”

The United States does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea but intermittently communicated with the country via its diplomatic mission to the United Nations in New York.

In addition to cutting off communication, North Korea said it would treat all Americans detained in the country under “wartime law,” without elaborating on what that means for those it is currently holding.

“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,” the KCNA statement said, according to Reuters.

There are currently two Americans known to be detained in North Korea: Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student sentence to 15 years hard labor in March after allegedly stealing a political banner, and Kim Dong Chul, a Korean-American sentenced to 10 years in April after being convicted of espionage.

North Korea is furious at sanctions the United States announced Wednesday against Kim for human rights violations. It’s the first time U.S. sanctions have named Kim specifically.

Also, on Thursday night, the United States announced that it reached an agreement with South Korea to deploy a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery to the peninsula in response to North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile capabilities.

“North Korea's nuclear test and multiple ballistic missile tests, including the recent intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) launches, highlight the grave threat that North Korea poses to the security and stability of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the entire Asia-Pacific region,” the Pentagon said in a statement last week.

In response to the THAAD deployment, North Korea also threatened Monday an unspecified “physical response.” 

“There will be physical response measures from us as soon as the location and time that the invasionary tool for U.S. world supremacy, THAAD, will be brought into South Korea are confirmed," a North Korean military statement carried by KCNA said, according to Reuters. "It is the unwavering will of our army to deal a ruthless retaliatory strike and turn [the South] into a sea of fire and a pile of ashes the moment we have an order to carry it out.”