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North’s trash balloon attacks push South Korea to freeze military deal

North’s trash balloon attacks push South Korea to freeze military deal
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Seoul to set aside agreement as tit-fot-tat balloon excursions send tensions rising.

South Korea is set to suspend a 2018 military agreement with its northern neighbour after a North Korean campaign that saw balloons carrying trash sent over the border.

The National Security Council of South Korea said on Monday that it would present a plan to fully suspend the deal for approval to the cabinet at a meeting on Tuesday. The key military agreement was partially frozen last year.

The council claimed that continued compliance with the deal would present “considerable problems in our military’s readiness posture”. Suspending the agreement would allow the country to conduct training near the military border and take unspecified “immediate measures” if necessary, it added.

The deal, the most important agreement to come out of months of historic meetings between the two Koreas during a thaw in relations during the presidency of Moon Jae-in in the South, was partially suspended by Seoul last year after North Korea put a spy satellite into orbit.

Pyongyang had announced after that suspension by the South that it also would no longer abide by the agreement.

Trash talk

The full suspension of the agreement comes as relations further deteriorate amid a series of tit-for-tat balloon “attacks” across the heavily fortified border.

Since last week, North Korea has been sending hundreds of balloons carrying trash and animal faeces – branded as “gifts of sincerity” – to its southern neighbour.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who has emerged as a key spokesperson for Pyongyang, mocked South Korea for complaining about the balloons this week. North Koreans were simply exercising their freedom of expression, she declared.

However, Pyongyang said on Sunday that it would stop sending the rubbish-filled balloons as they had proved an effective countermeasure against South Korean propaganda.

The North said the campaign was a response to balloons sent by activists from the South loaded with anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets, and at times cash, food or USB drives loaded with South Korean dramas or popular music.

After a meeting of the National Security Council on Sunday, a presidential official said Seoul would not rule out responding to the trash balloons by resuming previous loudspeaker propaganda campaigns along the border targeting Kim Jong Un.



Al Jazeera and news agencies

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