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North Korea threatens attack over Southern propaganda

North Korea on Sunday threatened to strike South Korean psychological warfare apparatus on the border “in light of self-defense,” in more tough rhetoric ahead of the South Korea-U.S. joint military exercise to begin Monday.
Civic group members send propaganda leaflets to North Korea at the Imjingak Pavilion near the inter-Korean border on Feb. 16. (Yonhap News)
Civic group members send propaganda leaflets to North Korea at the Imjingak Pavilion near the inter-Korean border on Feb. 16. (Yonhap News)
“Should the anti-North psychological warfare continue, our army will directly fire at the (Imjin) Pavilion and other origins of the psychological warfare to destroy them under the principle of self-defense,” a North Korean military official told the official Korean Central News Agency.

“The traitors’ group in South Korea must stop the anti-North psychological warfare at once, squarely seeing the seriousness of the prevailing situation.

“The ongoing psychological warfare by the puppet military is a treacherous deed and a wanton challenge to the demand of the times and desire of all the fellow countrymen to bring about a new phase of peaceful reunification and national prosperity through all-round dialogue and negotiations.”

Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense received a message containing the threat through an inter-Korean military communications line at 8 a.m., officials said. It said that it is maintaining high vigilance and keeping close tabs on North Korean movements.

The threat came weeks after the South Korean military began sending supplies such as clothes, medicine, radios and food in balloons to North Korea for the first time since the two Koreas agreed in 2004 to halt propaganda activities in the border areas.

A group of North Korean defectors and lawmakers of the ruling Grand National Party also sent anti-North Korea propaganda leaflets from Imjingak, a tourism pavilion located just south of the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjeom.

This threat follows a similar one that came after Seoul announced last May that it would resume anti-Pyongyang psychological warfare in response to the March sinking of the South Korean Cheonan corvette.

Following the announcement, the South established loudspeakers in 11 areas near the Military Demarcation Line. However, it has yet to broadcast anti-North messages through the speakers.

Since the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island in November, the South Korean military has reportedly sent some 3 million propaganda leaflets in balloons to the North.

The leaflets are said to introduce the development of South Korean society, compare the South and North Korean social and economic systems, and talk about the brutal dictatorship of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Experts here say that the verbal threat is intended to express its displeasure over the upcoming Key Resolve/ Foal Eagle exercise and bring its people together particularly at a time popular aspirations for genuine democracy are spreading across the Middle East and North Africa.

“The North touched on the issue of self-defense with an oblique reference to the upcoming joint military drills,” said Kim Yong-hyun, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University.

“Another thing we can point out from such a threat is that the North may be trying to tighten discipline among its people by increasing peninsular tensions at a time when turmoil and upheavals are continuing in the Middle East.”

A multinational investigation team ― led by Seoul ― concluded in May that the 1,200-ton vessel was torpedoed by a North Korean submarine. The North denies its role for the sinking that killed 46 sailors. Eight months after the sinking, the North bombarded Yeonpyeong Island, killing two marines and two civilians.

By Song Sang-ho (