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Inter-Korean military agreement brought down by North Korean garbage balloons

Photo: South Korean Defense Ministry via Agence France-Presse Over the past week, nearly a thousand balloons filled with trash ranging from cigarette butts to animal excrement have been launched by North Korea toward its neighbor, including 600 on Sunday, according to Seoul. This one fell at the end of the week.

Agence France-Presse in Seoul

Published at 16:15

  • Asia

South Korea will completely suspend its military agreement concluded in 2018 with the North in order to reduce tensions between the two countries, the National Security Council announced in Seoul on Monday, after Pyongyang sent hundreds of balloons filled with garbage on the other side of the border.

Seoul had already partially suspended this agreement last year following Pyongyang's placing a satellite into orbit -spy, but the National Security Council said it would ask the cabinet to “totally suspend” the military deal “until mutual trust between the two Koreas is restored.”

For the past week, nearly a thousand balloons filled with waste ranging from cigarette butts to animal excrement have been launched by North Korea towards its neighbor, including 600 on Sunday, according to Seoul .

Pyongyang said the “sincere gifts” were intended to retaliate for balloons loaded with propaganda leaflets against leader Kim Jong Un being sent to its territory.

South Korea called the North Korean action “low-class” and “irrational.”

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However, unlike the recent ballistic missile launches, this action does not violate the sanctions imposed by the United Nations on the North Korean regime.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said this was “clearly a disgusting, irresponsible and childish tactic that must stop.”

Pyongyang pledged on Sunday to temporarily “suspend” these balloon releases, ensuring that this “countermeasure” had been effective.

The agreement 2018 military agreement, signed during a period of warming relations between the two countries, which remain technically at war, aims to reduce tensions on the peninsula, particularly along the highly secure inter-Korean border.

Seoul partially suspended the agreement last November to protest Pyongyang's successful launch of a spy satellite, and the North said it would no longer honor it at all.< /p>

As a result, the National Security Council in Seoul declared the deal “virtually null and void due to North Korea’s declaration of de facto abandonment,” but that compliance with the rest of the agreement put Seoul at a disadvantage in terms of its ability to respond to threats such as the balloons.

“More adequate responses”

Complying with the deal “poses significant challenges to the readiness of our armed forces, particularly in the context of a series of recent provocations by North Korea that are causing real harm and threatening our citizens,” the South Korean government said.

The move will allow for “military training in areas around the military demarcation line” and “more adequate responses and more immediate to North Korean provocations.”

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

Relations between the two Koreas are at their lowest point in years, diplomacy has long been at a standstill, while Kim Jong Un intensifies his testing and continues to develop his weapons and the South moves closer to its main security ally, Washington.

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

“However, this could further provoke Pyongyang, as it is impossible to physically block balloons drifting south,” he added.

The balloons, which did not contain hazardous materials, landed in South Korea's northern provinces, including the capital, Seoul, and the adjacent Gyeonggi region, which together are home to nearly half of the South's population.

South Korean officials say this could lead to a resumption of loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts on the border with North Korea, which has always infuriated Pyongyang.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116