North Korea has temporarily stopped flying propaganda leaflets to South Korea near its western border since the communist state offered a series of peace gestures earlier this month, multiple sources said Tuesday.
North Korea has occasionally floated fliers condemning the South Korean government over the border, but its military had sent large numbers of leaflets using hot air balloons near its western front, starting in early December.
The leaflets under the name of the Korean People's Army threatened to mercilessly strike Marine Corps bases on South Korea's northwestern islands, stressing its words were not empty.
Since Pyongyang called on Seoul to halt all acts provoking and slandering the other side in mid-January, propaganda balloons have not been detected near the western front, sources familiar with the matter said.
"As the North Korean military has halted sending propaganda leaflets in the last two weeks, we are conducting an in-depth analysis into their intentions," a senior military official said, asking for anonymity. "Leaflets that strongly denounce South Korea have not been found near Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands."
Marine Corps troops are stationed on the front-line islands in the Yellow Sea, where several naval skirmishes with North Korea took place in the past decade.
Another source said the leaflets haven't been collected near the northwestern islands since Jan. 4, noting intelligence analysis is currently underway.
"At this point, it is not clear whether North Korea didn't fly leaflets due to weather conditions or stopped because of a certain intention," the source said.
The latest move comes as the two Koreas are seeking to hold reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War in mid-February as Seoul welcomed Pyongyang's recent offer to stage the meetings.
While the suspension of spreading propaganda fliers was seen as part of Pyongyang's peace gesture, North Korea has been carrying out its winter drills since December. North Korean ground forces are conducting training, whose scale is bigger than the previous year, according to military officials.
As potential follow-up measures to the reconciliatory rhetoric, Seoul officials expected the North might temporarily halt its ongoing winter drills, pull back its attack helicopters deployed near the western border islands or stop sending propaganda leaflets to the South.
Despite the North's repeated calls for the cancellation of the joint drills between South Korea and the United States, the two allies have said they will go ahead with their joint exercises as planned between late February and April, saying they are "defensive in nature." (Yonhap News)