South Korea President Moon Jae-In's support slides amid North Korea tension

South Korean President Moon Jae-in's approval rating dropped 5 percentage points from a week ago to hit 55 per cent. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - South Korean President Moon Jae-in's approval rating fell to it lowest level in about three months after North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border and threatened his legacy of rapprochement.

Mr Moon's approval rating dropped 5 percentage points from a week ago to hit 55 per cent, according to a Gallup Korea tracking poll released Friday (June 19).

His disapproval numbers rose to 35 per cent, the highest since April, due to respondents who gave him a negative assessment for managing affairs with North Korea, it said.

The fallout from the troubles with North Korea also hit Mr Moon's Cabinet. The president's office said Friday he accepted the resignation of his point man for Pyongyang, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, who offered to step down earlier this week in the face of the escalating tensions.

Mr Moon's nuclear envoy Lee Do-hoon went to the US for talks with Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, the Trump administration's main representative for North Korea, South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters in Seoul on Thursday.

It added the two would "assess the current situation in the Korean Peninsula and discuss ways to respond." Yonhap News Agency said the two held discussions on Thursday in Washington, but the ministry has not yet issued any statement.

The foreign ministry in a text message sent to the media also dismissed as "speculative" a report in Japan's Yomiuri newspaper that Mr Lee wanted the US to ease up on sanctions.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has demanded that any disarmament moves he makes be met with simultaneous rewards while the Trump administration has said he must completely give up nuclear weapons before it calls off its maximum pressure campaign

The liaison office was blown up on Tuesday. It had served as a de facto embassy for the countries that don't have diplomatic relations came after Mr Moon and Mr Kim Jong Un held three summits in 2018 and reached an agreement to reduce tensions on their border.

The political cost for Mr Moon, 67, of the ratcheting up of tensions still remains unclear. Global praise for South Korea's coronavirus response helped propel Mr Moon's left-leaning Democratic Party to a historic majority in parliamentary elections in April and lift his approval rating to a record high.

In recent weeks, Mr Kim Jong Un's regime has demanded that Mr Moon halt anti-Pyongyang leaflets from being sent across the border to defector-led activists groups and for months has called on his to break from a global sanctions regime that has squeezed North Korea's paltry economy.

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