The decision comes after Pyongyang fired volleys of artillery near the border with the South
South Korea has signaled that it will restart military exercises which were paused as part of a 2018 security pact with the North, saying it was considering scrapping the deal altogether following recent shows of force by the DPRK.
South Korea’s military said it would soon resume the war games on Monday, noting they would include live-fire artillery drills and operations along the land and sea border. Officials pointed to recent shelling by North Korea in areas where such exercises were banned under the earlier agreement, suggesting the 2018 deal had been nullified.
At a press conference on Tuesday, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesperson Jeon Ha-kyou said that canceling the security pact would allow the military to maintain better readiness, but stressed that the ministry still required official approval before a final decision was made.
“These issues are expected to be resolved, and I believe that there will be better conditions for exercises by units,” the spokesman said, noting that the agreement had banned drills within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of the demilitarized zone which separates the two Koreas.
In addition to land artillery maneuvers, Marines and naval forces are also expected to take part in the exercises.
The announcement comes after a major North Korean artillery barrage last week, which prompted the evacuation of several South Korean border islands. Within hours, Seoul responded with its own artillery drills on the islands of Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong, deeming Pyongyang’s actions a “military provocation.”
Late last year, South Korea said it would partially suspend the 2018 agreement in retaliation for a satellite launch by the North, restarting surveillance along the border area. The North later vowed to resume all previous military activity halted under the deal, but has since denied firing “even a single shell” during last week’s scare. Instead, senior North Korean official Kim Yo-jong dubbed the move a “deceptive operation” intended to “assess the real detecting ability of the ROK [Republic of Korea] military gangsters.”
The latest escalation between the two Koreas followed yet another round of live-fire drills by US and South Korean mechanized units near the border with the North. Pyongyang called the exercise “reckless war maneuvers” and promised to take countermeasures, and has repeatedly slammed such war games as rehearsal for a full-scale invasion.