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South Korea completely suspends military pact with North Korea over trash balloons

Seoul, South Korea — Seoul to completely suspend 2018 military deal aimed at reducing tensions with nuclear weapons North Koreathe South’s National Security Council said on Monday, after Pyongyang sent hundreds of balloons filled with trash across the border.

Seoul partially suspended the deal last year after the North put a spy satellite into orbitt, but the NSC said it would ask the cabinet “to suspend the entire effect of the ‘September 19 Military Agreement’ until mutual trust between the two Koreas is restored.”

Last week, Pyongyang sent nearly a thousand balloons carrying trash, including cigarette butts and possibly manure, to the South, in what it said was retaliation for anti-regime propaganda missives organized by activists. from South.

South Korean soldiers examine various objects, including what appears to be waste from a balloon believed to have been sent by North Korea, in Incheon, South Korea, June 2, 2024.


South Korea has called its neighbor’s latest provocation “irrational” and “low class” but, unlike the recent wave of ballistic missile launches, the smear campaign does not violate UN sanctions against the isolated government of Kim Jong Un.

The North called off the balloon bombing on Sunday, saying it was an effective countermeasure, but warned that more could be carried out if necessary.

The 2018 military deal, signed during a period of warmer relations between the two countries that remain technically at war, was aimed at reducing tensions on the peninsula and avoiding accidental escalation, particularly along the heavily fortified border.

But after Seoul partially suspended the deal in November last year to protest Pyongyang’s successful launch of a spy satellite, the North said it would no longer honor the deal at all.

As a result, Seoul’s NSC declared that the agreement was in any case “virtually null and void due to North Korea’s de facto declaration of abandonment”, but that compliance with the rest of the agreement disadvantaged the South in terms of its ability to respond to threats like the balloons.

Compliance with the agreement “poses significant challenges to our military’s readiness, particularly in the context of a series of recent provocations by North Korea that pose real damage and threaten our citizens,” he said. he declared.

The move will allow “military training in areas around the military demarcation line,” he said, and allow “more sufficient and immediate responses to North Korean provocations.”

The decision must be approved at a cabinet meeting scheduled for Tuesday before it takes effect.

Relations between the two Koreas are at one of their lowest points in years, with diplomacy long at a standstill and Kim Jong Un stepping up his testing and weapons development, while the South moves closer to Washington, its main ally in security matters.

Seoul’s decision to abandon the 2018 tension-reduction deal shows “it will not tolerate garbage balloons crossing the border, given international standards and the terms of the truce,” Hong Min said, senior analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification in South Korea. Seoul.

“However, it could further provoke Pyongyang when it is impossible to physically block balloons drifting south in the air,” he said.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the balloons did not contain hazardous materials, but had landed in northern provinces including the capital Seoul and the adjacent Gyeonggi region, which are collectively home to nearly half of the South Korean population.

South Korean officials also said Seoul would not rule out responding to the balloons by resuming loudspeaker propaganda campaigns along the border with North Korea.

South Korea has in the past spread anti-Kim propaganda to the North, infuriating Pyongyang, with experts warning a revival could even lead to skirmishes along the border.

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