June 17, 2020 09:29
North Korea on Tuesday threatened further provocations including massive military buildup along the border after blowing up the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong.
The North Korean military in a statement said it is considering "an action plan for measures to make the army advance again into zones that had been demilitarized under the [inter-Korean] agreement, turn the front line into a fortress and further heighten military vigilance against the South."
The North continued its bluster on Wednesday. The official [North] Korean Centeral News Agency revealed that North Korea earlier rejected South Korean President Moon Jae-in's offer to send a special envoy to resolve inter-Korean tensions, calling it a "unrealistic" and "sinister" proposal.
The statements signal the final nail in the coffin of a cross-border military pact signed in 2018 to reduce tensions and military presence in the frontline area. The North has repeatedly violated the pact, which mandated the demolition of some guard posts in the demilitarized zone and disarming of border guards in the truce village of Panmunjom.
South Korea is bracing for a range of provocations, including artillery fire or the redeployment of coastal batteries in the West Sea. This could be signaled by the resumption of fortifying uninhabited islands along the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border.
A military source said, "We can't rule out surprise attacks like the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island" in 2010.
Since the North is on a destructive rampage, it could also blow up South Korean-funded buildings in the scenic Mt. Kumgang resort and Kaesong Industrial Complex, which have come to symbolize cross-border economic cooperation.
In a demand to stop South Korean activists from floating propaganda leaflets across the border, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister Yo-jong said on June 4, "If they fail to take corresponding steps for the senseless act against the fellow countrymen [of disseminating propaganda leaflets], they had better prepare themselves for the possibility of a complete withdrawal of the already desolate Kaesong Industrial Park following the stop to tours of Mt. Kumgang or shutdown of the North-South joint liaison office."
The exact motives for the North's current histrionics are unclear, but experts predict they will continue for the time being. Shin Jong-woo at the Korea Defense Security Forum said, "North Korea has lots of options left when it comes to heightening tensions, so provocations will continue."
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