700 Balloons Later, North Korea Says It Will Stop Sending Waste to South Korea – National

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North Korea announced it will stop sending balloons carrying waste and manure across the border, hours after South Korea warned its northern neighbor on Sunday that it would unleash “unbearable” retaliation.

However, it appears that the end of the balloon campaign still has not been enough to cool tensions between the two countries, as South Korea announced on Monday that it will suspend a 2018 military agreement with North Korea.

The bizarre balloon conflict between the two countries began last week, when hundreds of North Korean balloons rained waste and feces over South Korea, especially in the border areas.

Photos released by the military last week show some intact white balloons with trash bags attached to them, while others show scattered pieces of plastic and paper on city streets. In addition to the waste, the South Korean military said some balloons also carried manure and animal feces.

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This photo provided by the South Korean Ministry of Defense shows balloons carrying trash in South Chungcheong Province, South Korea, Wednesday, May 29, 2024.

South Korea Presidential Office via AP

Last Wednesday, the South Korean military reported that some 260 balloons had been found in various parts of the country. More than 700 balloons were found on Sunday.

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South Korea’s national security director Chang Ho-jin said on Sunday that North Korea was trying to provoke “public fears and chaos” in South Korea by sending the balloons, and he also accused the authoritarian state of disrupting GPS navigation signals.

Chang vowed that South Korea would respond to North Korea’s “absurd, irrational acts of provocation” with “unbearable” retaliation.

Observers say South Korea is likely to resume frontline loudspeaker broadcasts to North Korea, including criticism of its dire human rights record, world news and K-pop songs. North Korea is extremely sensitive to such broadcasts because most of its 26 million people do not have official access to foreign television and radio.

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Debris from a balloon sent by North Korea seen on the street in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 29, 2024.

South Korea Presidential Office via AP

Following Chang’s comments, North Korean Vice Minister of Defense Kim Kang Il announced that balloon operations would be halted. He had previously said the campaign was a “tit-for-tat” action in retaliation for South Korean activists who sent balloons over the border carrying leaflets critical of North Korea’s human rights abuses.

“Action will also be taken against the frequent distribution of leaflets and other waste (by South Korea) near border areas,” Kim said on May 26. “Heaps of waste paper and dirt will soon be spread across the border areas and inland parts of (South Korea) and we will experience firsthand the effort required to remove them.”

On Sunday evening, Kim said North Korea had proven its point to the South and would stop sending balloons.

“We have allowed South Korea to gain enough experience of how unpleasant they feel and how much effort is needed to remove the scattered waste paper,” Kim said, warning that the balloon campaign would resume if South Korean pamphlets were again found in the country. north would be found.

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In this photo from the Jeonbuk Fire Headquarters, balloons containing trash hang from electrical wires as South Korean army soldiers stand guard in Muju, South Korea, Wednesday, May 29, 2024.

Jeonbuk Fire Department Headquarters via AP

But on Monday, South Korea doubled down on its pledge to retaliate against the garbage balloons by announcing plans to suspend a military agreement between the two countries that prevents South Korea from conducting military training near its border with North Korea.

The pact was signed in 2018 as the culmination of months of historic summits between the two Koreas, led by South Korea’s former president Moon Jae-in.

Last year, North Korea announced it was no longer bound by the agreement and began deploying troops and weapons to guard posts near the border. By continuing to adhere to the now one-sided agreement, South Korea exposes itself to “significant challenges in the readiness posture of our military,” the country’s National Security Council said Monday.

The council will discuss the plan to suspend the military agreement during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

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— With files from Associated Press and Reuters

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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