South Korea suspends inter-Korean military agreement, restores all border activities

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
4 Min Read

The South Korean military said on Tuesday it would resume all military activities along the demarcation line separating the two Koreas and the northwestern islands for the first time in five years after suspending a 2018 inter-Korean military agreement, according to Yonhap news agency.

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The 2018 agreement included establishing a buffer zone around the border to suspend large-scale military exercises, as well as banning “hostile” acts between the two Koreas, including a ban on loudspeaker broadcasts. It also set a no-fly zone near the border to prevent accidental aircraft collisions.

The announcement came after President Yoon Suk-yol backed a proposal to completely suspend the comprehensive military agreement until mutual trust is restored in response to North Korea's garbage balloon campaign and GPS signal jamming in recent days, according to Yonhap news agency.

Speaking at a press briefing, Deputy Defense Minister Cho Chang-rae said, “This measure is normalizing all military activities of our military, which were restricted by the 2018 agreement.”

“The North Korean regime bears full responsibility for this situation, and if North Korea attempts to take additional provocative actions, our military will take strong countermeasures based on the South Korea-US joint defense stance,” Cho said.

Following Tuesday's suspension, South Korea can now conduct exercises to strengthen front-line security. Units have been authorized to make training plans near the Military Demarcation Line and border islands.

The suspension allows South Korea to resume propaganda broadcasts via loudspeakers towards North Korea, according to Yonhap news agency.

These broadcasts, a key tool of psychological warfare, include criticism of the Kim Jong-Un regime's human rights abuses, news, and K-pop songs, which have previously triggered strong reactions from Pyongyang.

Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Lee Sung-joon indicated that various measures could be implemented following the suspension, saying the military was using both stationary and mobile loudspeakers on the front lines.

“Fixed loudspeakers need to be connected to power and can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to set up,” Li explained at a regular briefing. “Mobile loudspeakers can be put into operation immediately.”

Government officials have not clarified when restrictive measures under the 2018 agreement will be reinstated, but they have not ruled out the possibility of reinstating loudspeaker broadcasts with retrospective effect depending on the situation.

A government source indicated there were no immediate plans to install permanent loudspeakers because of potential military tensions, and suggested the military would likely first use mobile devices if broadcasting resumed.

South Korea is ready for talks with North Korea despite Pyongyang's continued isolation after it cut inter-Korean communication lines in April last year, a Unification Ministry official said.

“North Korea should not resort to such provocations to isolate itself, but should pursue the path of denuclearization and people's livelihood,” the official said. “We will continue to make efforts to bring North Korea to the path of dialogue.”

On Sunday, North Korea said it would temporarily stop sending balloons carrying garbage across the border, though it threatened to retaliate by sending balloons carrying “100 times more garbage” if Seoul activists send more anti-Pyongyang leaflets.

A North Korean fugitive group said on Monday it may temporarily halt the distribution of such leaflets across the border if North Korean leader Kim Jong-un apologises for sending balloons carrying garbage to South Korea.

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