SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean officials returned to work at a joint inter-Korean liaison office on Monday, just three days after North Korea pulled its staff members from the office it has operated with South Korea since last September.
North Korea abruptly withdrew workers from the liaison office, located in the North Korean border two of Kaesong, last Friday, raising fears that its was hardening its position toward the South weeks after the summit meeting between its leader, Kim Jong-un, and President Trump, ended without a deal.
But several North Korean officials showed up in the office on Monday, telling their South Korean counterparts that they have returned to work “as usual,” the South’s Ministry of National Unification said in a statement. The North Koreans returned to the office two days after Mr. Trump tweeted that he had ordered his government to withdraw “additional large scale sanctions” against the North, though it was not clear whether the two moves were connected.
The unification ministry said it expected the operation of the inter-Korean official to return to normal. But the North Koreans did not explain why they withdrew from the office on Friday, or why it then reversed its decision.
South Korean officials dealing with the North have long complained about its unpredictable behavior.
The sudden withdrawal of North Korean personnel on Friday was a setback for President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, who had billed the office’s opening as a milestone in improving inter-Korean relations. The office established the first channel for full-time, person-to-person contact between the two Koreas since the 1950-53 Korean War.
South and North Korea agreed to open the liaison office when Mr. Moon and Mr. Kim held their first summit meeting in April.
After the breakdown of the Trump-Kim summit meeting in late February, North Korea has repeatedly expressed its disappointment with Mr. Moon’s government. It urged the South to stop obeying Washington and instead push ahead with inter-Korean joint economic projects that have been held back by American-led international sanctions.