South Korea suspends military agreement with North Korea after trash-filled balloon campaign

Seoul: The National Security Council (NSC), on Monday, decided to suspend the 2018 inter-Korean reduction pact until mutual trust is restored in response to North Korea’s massive sending of trash-carrying balloons into South Korea.

NSC, the advisory body to the President of South Korea on matters of national security, held a meeting with related ministries to evaluate North Korea’s recent series of provocations, and agreed to propose a motion suspending the Comprehensive Military Agreement during a Cabinet meeting slated for Tuesday, reports Yonhap news agency.

“The attendees decided to submit a proposal to suspend the entire effectiveness of the September 19 Military Agreement until mutual trust between the two Koreas is restored,” the presidential office said in a statement.

The North has sent nearly 1,000 balloons carrying trash into the South since Thursday in what it said was a “tit-for-tat campaign” against South Korean activists sending balloons carrying propaganda leaflets denouncing the North’s regime.

No human casualties were reported, but some balloons caused property damage, such as a broken windshield.

The NSC meeting, presided over by Deputy Principal National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo, concluded that North Korea’s recent provocations have caused harm and threats to South Korean citizens and negatively impacted the military’s readiness posture.

“This measure will enable military training near the Military Demarcation Line, which has been restricted by the agreement, and allow for more adequate and immediate responses to North Korean provocations. The government will take all necessary measures to protect the lives and safety of our citizens,” the office said.

On Sunday, National Security Adviser Chang Ho-jin said that the government would take “unbearable” measures against North Korea in response to its sending of trash balloons and continued jamming of GPS signals last week. It raised speculation over resuming propaganda campaigns via loudspeakers along the border.

Hours after the warning, North Korea said it would temporarily stop sending trash-carrying balloons across the border into South Korea, though it also threatened to resume such operations if anti-Pyongyang leaflets are sent from South Korea.

The North said that its balloon campaign came purely in response to leaflets sent by South Korean activists.

It would be necessary to nullify a 2018 inter-Korean military agreement, which bans hostile acts between the two Koreas, to resume the frontline broadcasts.

The loudspeakers were used to air criticism of the Kim Jong-un regime’s human rights abuses, news and K-pop songs, drawing angry responses from Pyongyang.

The 2018 agreement, signed to reduce tensions along the border, remains effectively scrapped after the North conducted live-fire artillery drills near the western border islands in January.



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