In an alarming development which may threaten the safety of the Korean Peninsula, North Korea threatened Thursday to scrap a military agreement with the South and close down a cross-border liaison office unless Seoul stops activists from flying anti-Pyongyang leaflets over the border. This decision will have ramifications for the entire region and the world in general as well, brining on fears for another session of heightened pan-Korean tension amid the possible withdrawal of North Korea from the Korea military deal.
The statement issued by the powerful younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un comes amid a deep freeze in inter-Korean ties, despite three summits between Kim and the South’s President Moon Jae-in in 2018.
Korea Military deal: what has prompted this action by North Korea?
North Korean defectors and other activists have long flown balloons across the border carrying leaflets that criticise Kim over human rights abuses and his nuclear ambitions.
“The South Korean authorities will be forced to pay a dear price if they let this situation go on while making all sort of excuses,” Kim Yo Jong said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
— The Korea Herald 코리아헤럴드 (@TheKoreaHerald) June 4, 2020
Calling the defectors “human scum” and “rubbish-like mongrel dogs” who betrayed their homeland, she said it was “time to bring their owners to account” in a reference to the South Korean government. Indubitably, the Korea military deal is in the doldrums.
She threatened to scrap a military pact signed during Moon’s visit to Pyongyang in 2018 aimed at easing border tensions, and shut down a cross-border liaison office.
But most of the deals agreed at that meeting have not been acted on, with Pyongyang largely cutting off contact with Seoul following the collapse of a summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Hanoi last year that left nuclear talks at a standstill.
Operations at the liaison office have already been suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the North has carried out dozens of weapons tests since the military agreement was signed.
Kim Yo Jong also threatened to pull out permanently from joint projects with the South including the Kaesong Industrial Park and Mount Kumgang tours — both of them money-spinners for the North that have been suspended for years due to sanctions over its weapons programmes.
Inter-Korea relations: a recent account of the rocky relationship
North Korea continues to maintain a belligerent posture toward the South.
Athletes from both Koreas marched into the opening ceremonies together under a flag that depicted a silhouette of the Korean peninsula on a field of white. Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-Jong, attended the games, thus becoming the first official representative of North Korea’s ruling family to set foot in the South since the end of the Korean War. Kim Yo-Jong met with South Korean Pres. Moon Jae-In on February 10, 2018, and delivered a handwritten note from her brother that invited Moon to visit him in P’yŏngyang “at the earliest date possible.”
In March members of Moon’s administration traveled to P’yŏngyang to meet with Kim Jong-Un for a working dinner. That event paved the way for a historic meeting between Kim and Moon at the “truce village” of P’anmunjŏm on April 27, 2018. It marked the first time in more than a decade that the leaders of the two Koreas had engaged in direct talks, and the pair discussed the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the conclusion of an armistice that would officially end the Korean War.
Talks continued in February 2019, with a summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, that yielded little concrete progress. North Korean negotiators had requested the removal of some or all U.S. economic sanctions (the two sides offered differing accounts of the details) as a prerequisite to additional steps in the denuclearization process, and formal discussions collapsed shortly after they began. Nevertheless, the event was a success for Kim: once again he appeared side-by-side with Trump, an image that held enormous propaganda value for North Korea.
Kim also fielded what were believed to have been his first-ever questions from foreign journalists, a novel step for the historically secretive P’yŏngyang regime. The breakdown of the Hanoi talks did not signal an end to the detente, however.On June 30, 2019, Trump met Kim in P’anmunjŏm, in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. During that encounter Trump briefly stepped across a concrete marker indicating the border between the two countries and became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korea.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk