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PoliticsSouth Korea

South Korea to halt pact with North over trash balloons

June 3, 2024

South Korea's National Security Council wants the Cabinet to suspend a military agreement after North Korea sent balloons carrying garbage south. Pyongyang said it was responding to a southern propaganda campaign.

North Korean garbage balloon in South Korea pictured on June 2, 2024
North Korea has sent hundreds of balloons carrying garbage in response to what it considered to be provocations from the southImage: Yonhap/REUTERS

South Korea announced plans on Monday to suspend a military agreement signed with  North Korea in 2018.

It made the announcement after its northern neighbor launched hundreds of balloons that have dropped garbage throughout South Korea.

South Korean soldiers in Muju seeing balloons with trash on May 29, 2024
South Korea's National Security Council wants the army to be able to conduct training along the military border with the NorthImage: Jeonbuk Fire Headquarters/AP/picture alliance

What do we know about the trash balloon dispute?

South Korea's National Security Council said it would raise the plan to suspend the military pact with the North for approval by the Cabinet in a meeting on Tuesday.

It said the suspension would allow South Korea to conduct training near the military border and take "sufficient and immediate measures" in response to what it called a provocation from Pyongyang.

The council said it would advise the Cabinet to maintain the suspension "until mutual trust between the two Koreas is restored."

It did not provide further details on the measures planned.

North Korea said it sent the balloons filled with trash and excrement in response to what it called a propaganda campaign by defectors based in the South and called the action an effective countermeasure.

Activists regularly send inflatables with anti-Pyongyang leaflets and USB sticks containing South Korean music videos and TV dramas, as well as food, medicine and money, toward North Korea.

What was the Korean military pact?

The military pact came out of months of summit meetings between North and South Korea in 2018 in a bid to thaw tensions.

Last year, North Korea declared it was no longer bound by the agreement and has deployed troops and weapons near the border.

South Korea partially suspended the agreement after North Korea put a spy satellite into orbit.

The National Security Council said South Korea's continued partial compliance with the pact had caused "considerable problems" in its ability to respond to security threats.

Ties between the two states on the Korean Peninsula have been increasingly strained in recent years, with North Korea ramping up its ballistic missile testing program in violation of UN sanctions.

sdi/sms (Reuters, AFP)