Seoul mulls partial suspension of inter-Korean military agreement upon successful spy satellite launch by Pyongyang

Posted on : 2023-11-15 17:08 KST Modified on : 2023-11-15 17:15 KST
Following the surprise attack on Israel last month by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik has said he will seek to neutralize the 2018 comprehensive military agreement
President Yoon Suk-yeol presides over a Cabinet meeting on Nov. 15 at the presidential office in Yongsan. (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk-yeol presides over a Cabinet meeting on Nov. 15 at the presidential office in Yongsan. (Yonhap)

The South Korean government is looking into suspending restrictions on reconnaissance laid out in the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement if the North goes ahead with its promised third attempt to place a military spy satellite into orbit, the Hankyoreh learned on Tuesday.

South Korea is working on a plan to suspend what’s known commonly as the Sept. 19 comprehensive military agreement in stages, according to the severity of North Korean provocations going forward, which would eventually lead to the agreement being scrapped altogether. That endangers a safety mechanism that has prevented unintended military clashes between the two sides.

“Several issues with the Sept. 19 military agreement have been raised, including the fact that it severely restricts our military’s defensive posture in respect to military exercises and reconnaissance of North Korea. We will be reviewing all necessary measures while monitoring North Korea’s actions,” an official from the Ministry of Unification told Korean reporters Tuesday.

The government is reportedly discussing ways to normalize reconnaissance activities against North Korea around the Military Demarcation Line, which is the first part of the inter-Korean military accord it would neutralize in the event that North Korea goes ahead with launching a military reconnaissance satellite.

“Our first priority is normalizing reconnaissance on the eastern and western coasts. We would respond in stages to every subsequent North Korean provocation with the goal of completely scrapping the Sept. 19 agreement,” a source in the military told the Hankyoreh.

The military believes that South Korea needs to normalize its reconnaissance capability as North Korea uses military reconnaissance satellites to expand its own reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities.

Following the surprise attack on Israel last month by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik has said he will seek to neutralize the 2018 comprehensive military agreement, which he says restricts South Korea’s ability to monitor signs of a North Korean provocation.

“If North Korea succeeds in launching a military reconnaissance satellite, it would signify that North Korea’s ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) capabilities have been taken to a higher level. Therefore, we will have to come up with reinforced countermeasures,” South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol told the Associated Press in written responses to questions.

In the interview published Tuesday, a day before Yoon was planning to travel to San Francisco to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit there, Yoon said that North Korea’s supposed launch of a military reconnaissance satellite, which uses ballistic missile technology, is actually designed to advance its nuclear delivery vehicle.

The inter-Korean military pact, officially titled the “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain,” was signed during the third summit between former South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang on Sept. 19, 2018. The agreement sets up a buffer zone around the Military Demarcation Line running on both sides for 5 km on the ground, 40 km in the sea and up to 25 km in the air. That buffer zone is believed to have helped prevent unplanned military clashes between the two sides.

By Kim Mi-na, staff reporter; Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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