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South Korea suspends inter-Korean military pact, restores all border activities

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The South Korean military said on Tuesday, that it would resume all military activities along the demarcation line separating the two Koreas and the North West Islands, for the first time in 5 years after suspending a 2018 inter-Korean military pact, Yonhap news agency reported.

The 2018 deal included setting up buffer zones around the border to suspend large-scale military drills, as well as banning “hostile” acts between the two Koreas, which restricted the loudspeaker broadcasts. It also designated no-fly zones near the border to prevent accidental aircraft clashes.

The announcement came after President Yoon Suk Yeol endorsed a motion to fully suspend the Comprehensive Military Agreement until mutual trust is restored in response to the North’s trash-carrying balloon campaign and jamming of GPS signals in recent days, as per Yonhap news agency.

While speaking in a press briefing, the deputy defence minister Cho Chang-rae, stated “This measure is restoring to normality all military activities by our military, which had been restricted by the 2018 pact.”

“All responsibility for causing this situation lies with the North Korean regime and if the North attempts to stage additional provocations, our military will sternly retaliate based on a firm S. Korea-U.S. combined defence posture,” Cho added.

Following Tuesday’s suspension, South Korea is now able to conduct drills to strengthen front-line defences. Units are authorized to create training plans near the Military Demarcation Line and the border islands.

According to the Yonhap news agency, the suspension also permits South Korea to resume loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts toward North Korea.

These broadcasts, a key psychological warfare tool, include criticisms of the Kim Jong-un regime’s human rights abuses, news, and K-pop songs, which have previously elicited strong reactions from Pyongyang.

Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesperson Lee Sung-jun indicated that various measures could be implemented following the suspension, noting the military’s use of both fixed and mobile loudspeakers on the front lines.

“Fixed loudspeakers need to be connected to power and installing them could take hours to a few days,” Lee told a regular briefing. “Mobile loudspeaker operations can be conducted right away.”

Government officials have not specified when the measures restricted under the 2018 pact will resume but have not ruled out the possibility of preemptive loudspeaker broadcasts depending on the situation.

A government source indicated there are no immediate plans to install fixed loudspeakers due to potential military tensions, suggesting the military will likely use mobile equipment first if broadcasts are resumed.

A unification ministry official stated that South Korea remains open to dialogue with the North, despite Pyongyang’s continued isolation after cutting inter-Korean communication lines in April last year.

“North Korea should not take actions of self-isolation through such provocations but take the path of denuclearization and people’s livelihood,” the official said. “We will continue to make efforts so that North Korea comes to the path of dialogue.”

On Sunday, North Korea said it will temporarily stop sending balloons carrying trash across the border, though it threatened to retaliate with balloons carrying “garbage amounting to 100 times” in the event Seoul activists send more anti-Pyongyang leaflets.

A North Korean defectors’ group said Monday it could consider temporarily halting the scattering of such leaflets across the border if the North’s leader Kim Jong-un apologizes for the sending of trash-carrying balloons to South Korea.