South Korea restarts anti-North Korean loudspeaker broadcasts in retaliation for waste balloons


SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea on Sunday resumed anti-North Korean propaganda loudspeaker broadcasts in border areas in retaliation for the North sending more than 1,000 people balloons filled with waste and manure in recent weeks.

The move is sure to anger Pyongyang and could lead to military retaliation as tensions rise between the war-divided rivals while negotiations over the North’s nuclear ambitions stall.

Hours after the South resumed loudspeaker broadcasts, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister warned that the South was creating a “prelude to a very dangerous situation.” She said South Korea will witness an unspecified “new response” from the North if it continues the broadcasts and fails to stop civilian activists from distributing anti-North Korean propaganda leaflets across the border.

“I strongly warn Seoul to immediately denounce its dangerous activities, which would further provoke a crisis of confrontation,” Kim Yo Jong said in a statement published by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency.

That came shortly after the South Korean military said it had discovered North Korea launching more waste-carrying balloons on Sunday evening. The military did not immediately confirm the number of suspected balloons or whether any had yet landed in the South.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed that the military conducted a loudspeaker broadcast on Sunday afternoon. It was not specified in which border area it took place or what was played over the speakers.

“Whether our military conducts an additional loudspeaker broadcast depends entirely on North Korea’s behavior,” the report said.

The South had withdrawn speakers from border areas in 2018, during a brief period of cooperation with the North under Seoul’s previous liberal government.

At an emergency meeting chaired by national security director Chang Ho-jin, South Korean officials blasted Pyongyang for trying to cause “fear and disruption” by sending the balloons to the South and stressed that North Korea would be “solely responsible” for any future escalation. of tensions.

The North said the balloon campaign came after South Korean activists sent balloons full of anti-North Korean leaflets, as well as USB drives full of popular South Korean songs and dramas. Pyongyang is extremely sensitive to such material and fears it could demoralize frontline troops and residents and ultimately weaken leader Kim Jong Un’s grip on power, analysts say.

South Korea has in the past used loudspeakers to blare anti-Pyongyang broadcasts, K-pop songs and international news across its rivals’ heavily armed border.

In 2015, as South Korea resumed loudspeaker broadcasts for the first time in 11 years, North Korea fired artillery rounds across the border, prompting South Korea to fire back, according to South Korean officials. No casualties have been reported.

Last week, when tensions around the US were rising waste-bearing balloonsSouth Korea too suspended a 2018 agreement to reduce hostile acts along the border, allowing the country to resume propaganda campaigns and possibly live-fire military exercises in border areas.

South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik, in a meeting with top military commanders, called for thorough preparation for the possibility that the North might respond to the loudspeaker broadcasts with direct military action, his ministry said in a statement.

North Korea continued to fly hundreds of balloons to South Korea this weekend, a third of the campaign since late May.

The South’s military said the balloons that did land dropped debris, including plastic and paper waste, but no hazardous materials were detected.

In her statement, Kim Yo Jong claimed that the North used about 1,400 balloons to drop 7.5 tons of waste from Saturday evening to Sunday morning. She also complained that anti-North Korean propaganda leaflets flown in by South Korean activists had been discovered in border areas in recent days.

She said the North initially planned to halt balloon launches on Sunday, but decided to send more as the South restarted loudspeaker broadcasts.

The South’s military, which has mobilized chemical rapid response and explosive ordnance disposal units to retrieve the North Korean balloons and materials, warned the public to beware of falling objects and not to touch, but avoid, balloons found on the ground. report to the police or military authorities.

During the two previous rounds of balloon activities in North Korea, South Korean authorities discovered approx 1,000 balloons which were tied to vinyl bags containing manure, cigarette butts, scraps of cloth, old batteries and waste paper. Some were popped and scattered on roads, residential areas and schools. No highly hazardous materials were found and no major damage was reported.

A South Korean civic group Led by North Korean defector Park Sang-hak, it said it launched 10 balloons on Thursday containing 200,000 anti-North Korean pamphlets, USB drives with K-pop songs and K-dramas, and one-dollar bills. South Korean media reported that another activist group also flew balloons containing 200,000 propaganda leaflets towards North Korea on Friday.

Kim Jong Un has waged an intensified campaign in recent years to eradicate South Korean cultural and language influences. In January, Kim declared that the North would abandon its long-standing goal of peaceful unification with the South and rewrite its constitution to cement the South as a permanent enemy. Experts say Kim’s efforts to strengthen the North’s separate identity could be aimed at strengthening the Kim family’s dynastic rule.

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