SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea’s army is ready to take action if defector groups push ahead with their campaign to send propaganda leaflets into North Korea, state media said on Tuesday, in the latest warning of retaliatory measures.
South Korean soldiers walk down from their guard post near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, June 16, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
The General Staff of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) said it has been studying an “action plan” to reenter zones that had been demilitarised under a 2018 inter-Korean pact and “turn the front line into a fortress.”
“Our army will rapidly and thoroughly implement any decisions and orders of the Party and government,” the KPA said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
Tensions have risen as Pyongyang threatened to sever inter-Korean ties and take retaliatory measures over the leaflets, which carry messages critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un including human rights abuses.
Seoul’s defence ministry called for Pyongyang to abide by the 2018 agreement, in which both sides’ militaries vowed to cease “all hostile acts” and dismantled a number of structures along the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone between the two countries.
“We’re taking the situation seriously,” ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo told a briefing. “Our military is maintaining readiness posture to be able to respond to any situation.”
Several defector-led groups have regularly sent back flyers, together with food, $1 bills, mini radios and USB sticks containing South Korean dramas and news, usually by balloon over the border or in bottles by river.
On Saturday, Kim Yo Jong, the sister of Kim who serves as a senior official of the ruling Workers’ Party, said she ordered the military to prepare for unspecified “next action”.
South Korea plans legal action against two of the defector groups, saying their actions fuel cross-border tensions, pose risks to residents living near the border and cause environmental damage.
But the groups say they intend to push ahead with their planned campaign this week.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in urged Pyongyang on Monday to keep peace agreements reached by the two leaders and return to dialogue.
Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; editing by Grant McCool and Lincoln Feast.