North Korea flies trash-carrying balloons to South Korea in another retaliation against leafletting | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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North Korea flies trash-carrying balloons to South Korea in another retaliation against leafletting

An officer wearing protective gear collects the trash from a balloon presumably sent by North Korea, in Siheung, South Korea, Sunday, June 2, 2024. (Hong Ki-won/Yonhap via AP)
Original Publication Date June 08, 2024 - 8:46 AM

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea flew hundreds of trash-carrying balloons to South Korea again in its third such campaign since late May, the South’s military said, just days after South Korean activists floated their own balloons to scatter propaganda leaflets in the North.

North Korea has so far sent more than 1,000 balloons to drop tons of trash and manure in the South in retaliation against South Korean civilian leafletting campaigns, adding to tensions between the war-divided rivals amid a diplomatic stalemate over the North’s nuclear ambitions.

In response, South Korea suspended a 2018 tension-easing agreement with North Korea. The move allows the South to restart live-fire military exercises and anti-North Korean propaganda loudspeaker broadcasts in border areas, actions that are certain to anger North Korea and prompt it to take its own retaliatory military steps.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected the North launching around 330 balloons toward the South since Saturday night and about 80 were found in South Korean territory as of Sunday morning. The military said winds were blowing eastward on Saturday night, which possibly caused many balloons to float away from South Korean territory.

The South's military said the balloons that did land dropped trash, including plastic and paper waste, but no hazardous substances were discovered.

The military, which has mobilized chemical rapid response and explosive clearance units to retrieve the North Korean balloons and materials, alerted the public to beware of falling objects and not to touch balloons found on the ground but report them to police or military authorities.

Saturday’s balloon launches by North Korea were the third of their kind since May 28. In North Korea’s previous two rounds of balloon activities, South Korean authorities discovered about 1,000 balloons that were tied to vinyl bags containing manure, cigarette butts, scraps of cloth, waste batteries and waste papers. Some were popped and scattered on roads, residential areas and schools. No highly dangerous materials were found and no major damage has been reported.

The North’s vice defense minister, Kim Kang Il, later said his country would stop the balloon campaign but threatened to resume it if South Korean activists sent leaflets again.

In defiance of the warning, a South Korean civilian group led by North Korean defector Park Sang-hak, said it launched 10 balloons from a border town on Thursday carrying 200,000 anti-North Korean leaflets, USB sticks with K-pop songs and South Korean dramas, and $1 U.S. bills. South Korean media reported another activist group also flew balloons with 200,000 propaganda leaflets toward North Korea on Friday.

South Korean officials called the North Korean trash balloon launches and other recent provocations as “absurd, irrational” and vowed strong retaliation.

North Korea is extremely sensitive to South Korean civilian leafletting campaigns and front-line propaganda broadcasts as it forbids access to foreign news for most of its 26 million people. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is a third generation of his family to rule North Korea with an iron fist since 1948.

Experts say North Korea’s balloon campaign is also meant to cause a divide in South Korea over its conservative government’s tough approach on North Korea.

Liberal lawmakers, some civic groups and front-line residents in South Korea have called on the government to urge leafleting activists to stop flying balloons to avoid unnecessary clashes with North Korea. But government officials haven’t made such an appeal in line with last year’s constitutional court ruling that struck down a law criminalizing an anti-North Korea leafletting as a violation of free speech.

__ AP writer Kim Tong-hyung contributed.

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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