The Korea Herald


N. Korea's sending of trash-filled balloons is 'form of soft terrorism': CSIS report

By Yonhap

Published : July 3, 2024 - 09:27

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A balloon carrying garbage, sent by North Korea, is seen floating on the Han River in Seoul on Jun. 9. (The Joint Chiefs of Staff) A balloon carrying garbage, sent by North Korea, is seen floating on the Han River in Seoul on Jun. 9. (The Joint Chiefs of Staff)

North Korea's obnoxious sending of trash-filled balloons to South Korea is a "form of soft terrorism," a US think tank report said Tuesday, stressing it should not be taken lightly though it reflects the recalcitrant regime's "weakness" and "insecurity."

Victor Cha, senior vice president for Asia and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Andy Lim, an associate fellow with the CSIS Korea Chair, released the report that analyzed Pyongyang's campaign involving garbage-filled balloons in a question-and-answer format.

The North has floated such balloons to the South, taking issue with South Korean activists' sending of anti-Pyongyang leaflets to the North. The South Korean military took care of the balloons, but they caused public security jitters particularly among people near the border regions.

"While these balloons reflect North Korean weakness and insecurity, they should not be taken lightly. The trash-filled balloons and the damage they do is a form of soft terrorism," the report said.

"Just imagine if they put unidentifiable white powder in the balloons instead; it would create panic in South Korea among the public and impact the foreign capital in the country's economy," it added.

South Korea's reciprocation with anti-North Korea loudspeaker broadcasts along the border could escalate inter-Korean tensions, the report warned, noting that Kim Yo-jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, threatened in the past to destroy the speakers with military fire.

"This would amount to dangerous escalation alongside the recent GPS signal jamming, encroachments into the DMZ, and missile demonstrations," the report said. DMZ stands for the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.

The report cast Pyongyang's end to unification rhetoric and its launching of garbage balloons as a "preemptive action" designed to undercut South Korea's new forthcoming unification policy that highlights the values of freedom and human rights -- ideas that could awaken more North Koreans to the absence of those values in their tightly controlled country.

"Kim Jong-un wants to preempt this by cutting off all ties with South Korea and removing the notion of unification from the minds of the North Korean people," it said.

The report also called the North's sending of trash an "explicit acknowledgment of the bankruptcy of their ideology."

"They know that sending leaflets about Kimilsungism is laughable in South Korea," it said. "This would not have been the case during the early Cold War days when the North Korean economy was doing better than South Korea and there was strong labor and radical student support for Marxist-Leninist ideals. Now, the alternative is to send trash."

Kimilsungism refers to the ideology established by Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founder and grandfather of the current leader.

The report refuted some Korea watchers' claim that the North Korean leader "has made a strategic decision to go to war."

"First, if Kim Jong-un were really preparing for war, it is unlikely that he would be selling all of his ammunition to Russia. Second, if war were really in the cards, Kim would not be decoupling from South Korea. North Korea's strategic deception tactics are all about misleading its adversaries," it said.

"If war were imminent, North Korea would not be telegraphing future aggression -- it would be duplicitously calling for inter-Korean peace initiatives, just as it did on the eve of the Korean War." (Yonhap)