North Korea shreds military accord with Seoul

The South was the first to suspend parts of the deal following a satellite launch by the DPRK

North Korea has withdrawn from a 2018 deal designed to reduce military tensions with Seoul, vowing to deploy additional forces to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) after the South said it would rescind a no-fly zone previously agreed for the area.

In a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Thursday, North Korea’s Defense Ministry said it would scrap the military deal in response to “extreme confrontational frenzy” by Seoul, which had condemned the launch of a new reconnaissance satellite by the DPRK military earlier this week.

“We will withdraw the military steps, taken to prevent military tension and conflict in all spheres including ground, sea and air, and deploy more powerful armed forces and new-type military hardware in the region along the Military Demarcation Line,” the ministry said, referring to a strip of territory on either side of the DMZ separating the two Koreas.

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It went on to defend the satellite launch as a “lawful and legitimate exercise of sovereignty,” saying the new tech would be used to “strictly monitor and thoroughly prepare for the enemy’s various military actions.”

On Wednesday, South Korea said it would partially scale back the 2018 agreement in retaliation for the satellite test, which it dubbed a “clear violation” of United Nations sanctions imposed on the North’s missile program. Officials said the military would resume aerial surveillance flights near the DMZ, which had been suspended under the deal, calling the move an “essential measure to protect people’s lives and safety.”

“If North Korea stages provocations under the pretext of the suspension, we will respond immediately, strongly and until the end,” South Korea’s defense chief Shin Won-sik added.

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Pyongyang went on to state that it would “never be bound” by the agreement again, calling Seoul’s actions “an open expression of hostility toward the DPRK state.”

Signed in September 2018 under the earlier administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the military deal established buffer areas and no-fly zones along the DMZ in an effort to reduce the risk of accidents between the two sides, and called to remove land mines, guard posts and other weapons from the border area. Both Seoul and Pyongyang had accused one another of breaching the agreement in the past, with the South claiming no less than 17 violations since the deal was inked.

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