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North Korea threatens to halt military agreement over leaflets
FILE - In this May 3, 2020, file photo, military guard posts of North Korea, rear, and South Korea, bottom, are seen in Paju, at the border with North Korea, South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)
Kim Tong-Hyung, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, June 3, 2020 7:48PM EDT
SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - North Korea has threatened to end an inter-Korean military agreement reached in 2018 to reduce tensions if the South fails to prevent activists from flying anti-Pyongyang leaflets over the border.
The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also said Thursday the North could permanently shut a liaison office with the South and an inter-Korean factory park in the border town of Kaesong, which have been major symbols of reconciliation between the rivals.
Continuing protests they did for years, North Korean defectors and other activists in recent weeks have used balloons to fly leaflets criticizing the North's authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un over his nuclear ambitions and dismal human rights record across the border.
In her statement released through state media, Kim Yo Jong called those defectors “human scum” and “mongrel dogs” who betrayed their homeland and said that it was “time to bring their owners to account,” referring to the government in Seoul.
“(South Korean) authorities will be forced to pay a dear price if they let this situation go on while making sort of excuses,” she said.
“If they fail to take corresponding steps for the senseless act against the fellow countrymen, they had better get themselves ready for possibility of the complete withdrawal of the already desolate Kaesong Industrial Park following the stop to tour of (Diamond Mountain), or shutdown of the (North-South) joint liaison office whose existence only adds to trouble, or the scrapping of the (North-South) agreement in military field which is hardly of any value.”
South Korea's government didn't immediately react to the statement.
North Korea considers the leaflets an attack on its government and has long demanded that South Korea ban activists from sending them. South Korea refuses, saying the activists are exercising freedom of speech.
In 2014, soldiers exchanged machine-gun and rifle fire after South Korean activists released anti-North Korean propaganda balloons across the Demilitarized Zone, but no casualties were reported.
The liberal government of South Korean President Moon Jae-in has touted the military agreement, reached during his third summit with Kim Jong Un in September 2018, as a major step in the peace process between the rivals.
The Koreas had agreed to jointly search for human remains from the 1950-53 Korean War while also taking steps to reduce conventional military threats, such as establishing buffer zones on land and at sea and no-fly zones above their border. The Koreas also removed some front-line guard posts and conducted a joint survey of a waterway near their western border under plans to allow civilian vessels from both countries to pass freely.
However, the North has been less enthusiastic about upholding inter-Korean agreements amid the stalemate in larger nuclear talks with the Trump administration. Kim entered the new year vowing to bolster his nuclear deterrent in face of “gangster-like” U.S. sanctions and pressure and has continued to advance his missile capabilities with tests.
Kim and Moon during their peace talks in 2018 also agreed to open a liaison office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, where the Koreas had also operated a factory park that Seoul's previous conservative government shut down in 2016 following a North Korean nuclear test.
The liaison office has been closed since January after the Koreas agreed to temporarily shut down until the coronavirus outbreak is controlled.