Asia In News

North Korea Announces Suspension of Sending Trash Balloons to South Korea

Published On Mon, 03 Jun 2024
Leela Nanduri
In Seoul, North Korea declared on Sunday (June 2) its cessation of sending trash-laden balloons across the border into South Korea, although it asserted its intent to resume this action if anti-North Korean leaflets were launched from the South again. The North's vice-minister of defense, Kim Kang-il, conveyed in a statement carried by state media outlet KCNA that South Korea had experienced the inconvenience and extensive effort required to collect trash after North Korea dispatched 15 tons of it via 3,500 balloons. South Korea deemed the inflow of trash balloons over the border intolerable and expressed readiness to take stringent measures against North Korea, including broadcasting propaganda via loudspeakers directed at the North.
The announcement from President Yoon Suk-yeol's office ensued a meeting of his National Security Council, which addressed Seoul's reaction to what it reported as over 700 balloons carrying trash dispatched by Pyongyang across the heavily fortified border to antagonize its neighbor. The council denounced the balloons and concurrent GPS interference as an "illogical act of provocation." While Seoul did not rule out the possibility of resuming loudspeaker broadcasts—a practice halted in 2018 following a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un—a senior official at Yoon's office informed reporters.
The democratic South and the communist North have remained technically at war since the 1950-1953 Korean War concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty. Seoul, a staunch US ally, frequently conducts joint military exercises with the sophisticated US military, while Pyongyang is advancing its missile and nuclear capabilities, contravening UN resolutions.
North Korea claimed its balloon actions were retaliation against a propaganda campaign by North Korean defectors and activists in South Korea, who regularly dispatch inflatables containing anti-Pyongyang leaflets, along with provisions like food, medicine, money, and USB sticks loaded with K-pop music videos and dramas across the border.
The North Korean balloons, carrying refuse such as cigarette butts, fabric, paper waste, and plastic, were discovered across Seoul from 8 pm on Saturday to 1 pm on Sunday, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff. Military personnel were observed monitoring the launch site and conducting aerial surveillance to locate and retrieve the balloons, which were suspended beneath large bags of trash.
South Korean officers, armed with rifles, were seen collecting and bagging what appeared to be trash from the balloons in designated areas, as shown in local media footage. North Korea had previously dispatched hundreds of balloons containing trash and labeled as manure across the border on Wednesday, referring to them as "sincere gifts." Seoul strongly condemned the action, deeming it reckless and hazardous.
There has been no comment from North Korea regarding the weekend's balloon incidents. At a conference in Singapore on Sunday, South Korean Defence Minister Shin Won-sik reportedly informed US Defence Secretary Austin Lloyd that the balloons violated the armistice agreement, according to South Korea's military. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to a coordinated response to any North Korean threats and provocations based on the combined defense posture of the South Korea-US alliance. Emergency alerts were issued in North Gyeongsang and Gangwon provinces and some parts of Seoul on Sunday, urging people to refrain from touching the balloons and to report them to the police.
Disclaimer. This image is taken from Reuters.
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