Situation ‘grave’ as South Korea holds emergency meeting about North’s threats

Park Chan-kyong

South Korea’s top security officials convened an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss recent threats by North Korea including military action, the presidential Blue House said.

The meeting, lead by the head of the National Security Council Chung Eui-yong, “reviewed the current security situation on the Korean peninsula”, the Blue House said in a statement without giving further details.

“The government considers the current situation as grave,” the Unification Ministry said in a press statement.

“Both the South and the North must make efforts to stick to all inter-Korean agreements”.

Pyongyang is demanding that Seoul take action against activists who allegedly sent some 50,000 leaflets into the reclusive neighbouring nation criticising the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

North Korea axes dialogue with South, accuses Seoul of aiding defectors

The meeting came after Kim Yo-jong, the leader’s powerful younger sister, warned on Saturday that it was time for North Korea to “surely break with” South Korea and threatened to take revenge.

She also said she would leave to North Korea’s military the right to take the next step of retaliation against South Korea.

In the past week the North had threatened to cut off all communication lines with South Korea, to close a liaison office along the mutual border and to pull out of a military agreement with the South.

“South Korean authorities are indeed seriously concerned over the recent slew of threats from the North,” Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korea Studies told South China Morning Post.

The Blue House was likely to come up with a statement expressing its preference to stick to agreements including those from the 2018 inter-Korean summit on ceasing all hostile acts including anti-Pyongyang leaflets, he said.

“The North is angry over what it perceives as the South’s disregard of the inter-Korean agreements and its failure to push Washington to ease sanctions on itself.

“The anger has flared up into an explosion with the continuing leaflet launch.”

Kim-Trump friendship is pointless, North Korea says two years after summit

The leaflets, usually launched by North Korean defectors living in the South, also contain printed insults against Kim Jong-un.

Former lawmaker Park Jie-won, who played a mayor role in the first inter-Korean summit in 2000, said there were “high possibilities” that the North may hit out with a military provocation near the border.

The liaison office and Seoul-invested industrial estate, both at the North’s Kaesong City near the border, were highly likely to be dismantled, Park said.

He urged the South to send a presidential envoy to Pyongyang immediately to defuse the situation.

A North Korean defector living in the South holds a balloon containing leaflets. Photo: Reuters

The Kaesong Industrial Zone, which was formed in 2002 as a result of the 2000 summit, has been shut since 2016 when then conservative South Korean President Park Geun-hye, now jailed for corruption and abuse of power, ended operations amid intensifying international sanctions against the North.

That move sparked protests from 123 South Korean companies that employed more than 50,000 North Koreans there.

Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s current president, wants to reopen and expand the zone but faces pressure from Washington in its dealings with the North.

Why Kim Jong-un’s sister is putting the pressure on South Korea

The North pulled military units back from the area occupied by the Kaesong industrial zone, located on a key invasion route used by the North during the 1950-53 Korean war.

“It is now highly likely that the North’s military will come back and reoccupy Kaesong”, Yang said.

Other military actions may include firing near the border, both on land and in the sea.

“Under the excuse to cope with leaflet launches, the North’s military may bring more multiple rocket launchers or other long-range cannons forward positions and intrude into the Northern Limit Line”, Yang said about the disputed inter-Korean sea border in the Yellow Sea.

However, North Korea was less likely break its self-imposed moratorium on test-firing long-range missiles including ICBMs, a move that could provoke a strong reaction from the US.

“The North is likely to reserve provocative acts related to building up its nuclear arsenal, waiting to see what’s happening to the US presidential election,” he said.

Additional reporting by DPA

More from South China Morning Post:

This article Situation ‘grave’ as South Korea holds emergency meeting about North’s threats first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.