The announcement comes after North Korea destroyed an inter-Korean liaison office to put pressure on the US and Seoul.
SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea announced on Wednesday that it would send troops to now closed Inter-Korean cooperation sites, reinstall guards and resume military exercises in frontier areas, thereby nullifying the groundbreaking reconciliation agreements reached with South Korea two years ago.
The announcement came a day after North Korea destroyed an inter-Korean liaison office in a choreographed representation of anger that is putting pressure on Washington and Seoul amidst a deadlocked nuclear diplomacy. Demolition was the most provocative act in North Korea since the nuclear talks began in 2018, despite the fact that the building in its border town of Kaesong was empty and the north had previously signaled plans to destroy it.
Although North Korea’s recent actions have not resulted in clashes or bloodshed, it still raises hostility on the peninsula to a level that has not been seen since Pyongyang’s nuclear talks started in 2018.
The General Staff of the North said military units will be stationed at Diamond Mountain Resort and the Kaesong industrial complex north of the highly fortified border. The two locations built with South Korean funding have been closed for years due to disputes between Korea and US-led sanctions.
The north also said it would resume military exercises, restore sentries, increase military readiness in border areas, and open frontline locations for propaganda balloons flying to South Korea. These steps would reverse the agreements between Korea in September 2018 aimed at alleviating military tensions along the border.
The South Korean military regretted the announcement of North Korea and warned that the north will have unspecified consequences if it violates the 2018 agreements.
Maj. Gen. Jeon Dong Jin, of the joint chiefs of staff, told reporters that South Korea will maintain military readiness and will endeavor not to increase military tensions. Deputy Minister of Unification Suh Ho warned of the destruction of South Korean assets remaining at the two cooperation sites.
As part of the 2018 agreements, both of Korea stopped live fire exercises, removed some landmines and destroyed guards along the world’s most armed border.
Some experts argued that the measures undermined South Korea’s security more than that of the north, since Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal remained intact.
North Korea will likely be the next to dismantle structures, equipment, and other assets built in South Korea at the two cooperation sites before military exercises are carried out and rockets and grenades are fired at sea, said Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute, a South Korean think tank.
Cheong said the deterioration in relations is now “inevitable” and South Korea could respond by resuming propaganda loudspeaker broadcasts and joint military exercises with the United States.
Some analysts see the North Korean provocation as an attempt to get concessions from Washington and Seoul at a time when the sanctioned economy is likely to deteriorate due to the coronavirus pandemic. They say North Korea may be frustrated because sanctions prevent Seoul from detaching from Washington to resume economic projects with Pyongyang.
The official Korean north central news agency said Wednesday that measures have recently been taken to avenge South Korea’s failure to prevent activists from flying propaganda leaflets across the border.
The destruction of the building on Tuesday was said to be “a reflection of our angry people’s zeal to punish human scum, which called into question the noblest dignity and reputation of our country, and those who protected scum, perpetrating shuddering crime”. North Korea will set the intensity and timing of its additional steps, while closely monitoring South Korean steps.
North Korea’s state television showed the scene of the building demolition on Wednesday, and Anker read previously released statements about South Korea to bolster sentiment against Seoul at home.
Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, separately announced that North Korea recently rejected an offer by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to send special representatives to Pyongyang to alleviate tensions.
Kim Yo Jong, who has spearheaded the North’s recent rhetoric against South Korea, called Moon’s offer a “little farce” and a “trick” to get over a crisis. It also struck Moon’s recent push from North Korea to return to talks and find a breakthrough with South Korea.
In response, one of Moon’s senior presidential advisors, Yoon Do-han, described Kim Yo Jong’s statement as “very rude,” “irrational,” and “senseless.” Yoon warned South Korea to tolerate similar statements made by North Korea for longer, and at the same time regretted that North Korea had published South Korea’s offer to send envoys.
The exchange of verbal volleys between the Koreas is highly unusual under the Moon government, which has advocated closer rapprochement with North Korea since taking office in 2017. Moon has been criticized for being too gentle on North Korea, even if he publicly conducts weapons tests against South Korea.
South Korea’s top official for North Korea offered to resign to take responsibility for the tensions. It was not immediately known whether Moon would accept Union Minister Kim Yeon-chul’s offer.
Moon, who met Kim Jong Un three times in 2018, has been a driving force behind the diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington, including the first summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in June 2018 in Singapore.
Relations between Korea have been tense since a second Kim Trump summit broke up in early 2019 over disputes over sanctions.