N. Korea removes propaganda loudspeakers from DMZ, suspending planned military action against South

Posted on : 2020-06-25 17:56 KST Modified on : 2020-06-25 18:11 KST
S. Korea adopts cautious wait-and-see approach
A site in Kaepung County, North Hwanghae Province, where a North Korean propaganda loudspeaker was removed on June 23. (Yonhap News)
A site in Kaepung County, North Hwanghae Province, where a North Korean propaganda loudspeaker was removed on June 23. (Yonhap News)

After North Korea announced it was suspending a plan to carry out military action against the South, there were indications that the North was removing its propaganda loudspeakers from the DMZ, lowering tensions in the South Korean government at least for the moment.

The South Korean government remains cautious, however: since North Korea decided to suspend, and not completely cancel, its planned military action against the South, the North could change its stance and take military action at any time. Rather than rushing to take a position on North Korea’s decision, South Korea intends to abide by the letter of the inter-Korean agreements and to take stern measures against civic groups that launch propaganda leaflets into the North, which triggered the recent deterioration in inter-Korean relations.

“We are cautiously and thoroughly reviewing reports [from North Korea] and will follow the situation closely. There are no changes to the government’s basic stance that inter-Korean agreements must be complied with,” said Yoh Sang-key, spokesperson for South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU), in the daily briefing on Wednesday.

“Separately from that, we plan to firmly and strictly deal with the launch of propaganda leaflets and other actions that raise inter-Korean tensions and threaten the safety of our citizens in the border regions,” Yeo emphasized. This shows that South Korea intends to strictly enforce the ban on propaganda leaflets that appears in an inter-Korean agreement while refraining from jumping to conclusions about the reasons for North Korea’s change of attitude.

The Blue House has also kept an eye on developments, without making an official response. “This particular development isn’t bad, but right now, we’re watching the situation very carefully. We’re hesitant to make any remarks because we can’t predict what will happen in the future based on a single development,” said a high-ranking official at the Blue House.

Other officials at the Blue House agreed that, rather than getting too excited about North Korea’s latest move, a more prudent approach is needed.

However, Blue House officials seem to think that North Korea’s course correction may have been affected by the government’s stern approach to defector groups launching propaganda leaflets and by President Moon Jae-in’s appeal in his speech on the 20th anniversary of the June 15 Inter-Korean Joint Declaration for the two sides to “abide by the terms of inter-Korean agreements.” Others point to the fact that Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul resigned to take responsibility for the recent events.

“We’re going to send a signal that we will respond firmly to the propaganda leaflet launches. The various proposals that the president has made about cooperation with North Korea remain valid,” a Blue House official said.

By Noh Ji-won, staff reporter, and Seong Yeon-cheol Blue House correspondent

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

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