June 19, 2020 11:05
North Korea has redeployed troops to border guard posts and the Kaesong Industrial Complex after tearing up a 2018 military de-escalation pact between the two Koreas. North Korea announced the looming redeployment on Wednesday.
South Korea has around 60 guard posts and North Korea around 150. Many North Korean ones that were deserted after the cross-border military pact are now being occupied again. Some soldiers were spotted carrying shovels, suggesting that they are repairing posts that had been demolished under the pact.
The official Rodong Sinmun daily said the demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office earlier this week was "just the beginning" and warned that the North Korean military's self-restraint had "surpassed the limit."
It did not respond to Cheong Wa Dae's warning Wednesday that it will "no longer tolerate" the North's "senseless words and acts." Instead, it featured several articles that claimed there is mounting anger among North Koreans toward South Korea.
Meanwhile, the U.S. White House finally issued a statement on Wednesday saying "The existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula and the actions and policies of [North Korean regime] continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States."
"Measures taken to deal with that national emergency, must continue in effect beyond June 26, 2020," when six executive orders that were put into place against the North during the George W. Bush administration expire. The White House is required to notify Congress of the extension of North Korea sanctions each year.
South Korea's chief nuclear envoy Lee Do-hoon left for Washington on Thursday to discuss a concerted response to the latest crisis. He met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun.
There were calls within the U.S. to deploy aircraft carriers to the Korean Peninsula and resume joint military exercises with South Korea which were halted after the first summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore in 2018.
Former national security adviser Herbert McMaster said in a seminar hosted by the Hudson Institute on Wednesday, "I think we have to demonstrate our ability to respond to this threat effectively militarily. There are exercises scheduled for August. I think those ought to be robust exercises."
Former U.S. Forces Korea commander Vincent Brooks said in a virtual seminar hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies that he would respond to North Korea's recent provocations through increased pressure, including the deployment of strategic assets into the Korean Peninsula and joint military exercises.
But Trump is not likely to highlight the North Korea crisis immediately since it reflects badly in an election year on his failure to reach a deal with the North.
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