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North Korea on Tuesday “completely shut down all contact” with South Korea in a decision likely intended to deflect from domestic troubles and send a message to the United States, which remains embroiled in its own turmoil, experts say.

Pyongyang said Tuesday it would cut several key hotlines — including its direct line with the South Korean presidential Blue House — as part of a “first step” in what it described as “phased plans … to make the betrayers and riff-raff pay for their crimes,” according to the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency.

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