The Korea Herald

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소아쌤

Seoul denies avoiding drills near border

By Kim Arin

Published : Jan. 28, 2024 - 15:50

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A TV news report on North Korean launch of a ballistic missile is being shown at a Seoul station on Jan. 14. (Yonhap) A TV news report on North Korean launch of a ballistic missile is being shown at a Seoul station on Jan. 14. (Yonhap)

The Ministry of National Defense in Seoul on Sunday denied reports that the South Korean military was still putting off drills near the shared border, as per the 2018 inter-Korean agreement that North Korea withdrew from earlier.

“Our military can hold drills according to its own plan, only there aren’t such plans yet,” a senior defense ministry official told The Korea Herald. “There is no official decision or guidance in place that is preventing our military from conducting drills.”

The official added that drills along the border can take place as the military sees fit.

In November last year, North Korea said it was scrapping the agreement designed to minimize military tensions around the border. The pact put in place “buffer zones,” where each Korea would abstain from drills or other military activities.

North Korea abandoned the agreement as a protest to South Korea announcing it would restore surveillance in the border area, which was in response to the North launching a spy satellite.

While the pact is practically defunct, South Korea has not yet announced an official withdrawal.

“We suspended parts of the agreement that would allow us to resume normal activities in the buffer zones, following North Korean violations over the years,” Shin Won-sik, the South Korean defense chief, told The Korea Herald on Jan. 22.

He added that further discussion within the government was necessary before doing away with the remainder of the agreement involving exchanges between the Koreas.

After scrapping the 2018 agreement, North Korea said it would deploy new and more advanced weapons along the border.

In a statement carried by its official Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s Defense Ministry said its forces “will not be bound by” the agreement that created buffer zones alongside the fortified border, vowing to restore military measures immediately in all spheres.