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South Korea suspends pact, resumes border military activities

Published : 2024-06-04 15:59:54

Minister of National Defense Shin Won-sik (center) arrives for a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. (Yonhap) Minister of National Defense Shin Won-sik (center) arrives for a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

South Korea voted in a Cabinet meeting to suspend the September 19 Inter-Korean Military Agreement on Tuesday after a week of North Korea’s unceasing provocations ranging from attempting to launch another spy satellite to sending trash balloons.

The Cabinet decision was approved by President Yoon Suk Yeol the same day, making the pact -- reached on September 19, 2018, to minimize front-line tensions -- lose effect entirely for the time being.

South Korea earlier halted parts of the pact to resume surveillance activities near the border after North Korea sent a spy satellite to space last November. North Korea responded by scrapping the pact altogether.

At the Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said the “continued provocations from North Korea were causing harm and threat to South Koreans” and that the pact, “already made nominal by North Korea’s withdrawal last year, is deemed to be hurting the South Korean military’s readiness.”

“The Cabinet has decided to suspend the entire pact until mutual trust between South Korea and North Korea is restored,” he said.

“North Korea must stop all provocations that threaten peace and security of the Korean Peninsula immediately and pursue a path of mutual prosperity.”

The pact’s full suspension will allow the restoration of normal military activities around the border, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

“Our military has to date complied with the terms of the pact despite North Korea’s repeated violations and provocations,” the ministry said.

“However, since the failed launch of a so-called military reconnaissance satellite on May 27, North Korea has engaged in a series of provocative actions including GPS jamming, missile launches and the large-scale distribution of waste balloons -- threatening the safety of our people and causing property damage,” the ministry said.

The ministry said Tuesday’s decision to put the pact on hold is intended to ensure the military activities that protect the safety and properties of the people are no longer affected.

“The responsibility for the situation coming to this end lies with the North Korean regime, and any further provocations will be met with a stern response based on the South Korea-US defense posture,” it said.

North Korea said Sunday that it would retreat from sending balloons filled with trash following a warning from South Korea that it would begin anti-North Korean regime broadcasts from the loudspeakers along the border.

North Korea claims to have sent 3,500 balloons, which South Korean authorities have found to contain objects like waste paper, cigarette butts and other trash.

At the Shangri-La Dialogue defense summit in Singapore on Sunday, Shin held bilateral talks with the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin where the two agreed that North Korean balloon launches would amount to a violation of the Armistice Agreement that halted the Korean War, according to the Seoul ministry.

Shin in his remarks delivered at the Singapore summit said North Korea sending trash-filled balloons was “an unimaginably petty and low-grade behavior for a civilized nation.”

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