Seoul vows immediate retaliation against possible provocations
By Lee Hyo-jin
North Korea is likely to restore guard posts inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) as one of its initial moves to demonstrate the effective nullification of the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement, analysts said Thursday.
The reclusive regime may also carry out artillery exercises near the Northern Limit Line (NLL) and engage in other provocative actions along the border that were prohibited under the military pact, according to observers.
“Restoring guard posts at the DMZ is perhaps the easiest and fastest way for the North to show that it is beefing up its military presence near the border,” said Cho Han-bum, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification.
Pyongyang’s defense ministry announced on Thursday that it would reinstate “all military measures” that were suspended under the Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA), also known as the Sept. 19 military agreement. The document was signed in 2018 when the two Koreas reached a consensus over reducing military tensions near the border.
“We will immediately restore all military measures that have been halted according to the north-south military agreement,” it said in a statement carried by the North’s official mouthpiece, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
“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-types of military hardware in the region along the Military Demarcation Line,” it added.
The announcement came just a day after South Korea’s decision to partially suspend the CMA and resume front-line aerial surveillance, in response to the North’s launch of a military spy satellite on Tuesday night.
As per the Sept. 19 military agreement, both Koreas dismantled 11 front-line guard posts from their respective sides in December 2018.
Cho noted that the North’s annual wintertime military exercises, which are expected to kick off in December and continue through early spring, will be more extensive than previous ones and could involve tactical nuclear strike drills.
“They will also launch additional spy satellites in the coming months to fully establish a space-based surveillance system. At least five satellites in operation are required to observe the Korean Peninsula around the clock,” the researcher said.
Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Womans University, thinks that the North will soon conduct artillery exercises near the NLL in the West Sea, the maritime border separating the two Koreas, to draw international attention to the military pact, which has been effectively abolished.
“It may also utilize its surveillance drones near the border in response to South Korea’s resumption of reconnaissance activities,” he said.
When asked about how Seoul would respond to such provocations, Park replied, “Now that North Korea has officially announced that it will disregard the CMA, our military will feel less constrained by the agreement. We may witness some tit-for-tat actions.”
South Korea’s Defense Minister Shin Won-sik warned of retaliatory measures against the North’s potential military provocations.
“If North Korea engages in provocative actions using the suspension (of the military agreement) as an excuse, we will immediately take overwhelming retaliatory measures,” Shin said during a National Assembly session, Thursday.