N Korea restores armed guard posts along border with the South

Pyongyang blames U.S., S Korea for inter-Korean deal termination.
By Lee Jeong-Ho for RFA
2023.11.26
Seoul, South Korea
N Korea restores armed guard posts along border with the South North Korean soldiers rebuild a guard post on the North side of the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas in this undated photo released on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023.
Handout/South Korean Defense Ministry/AFP

North Korea is reestablishing its Guard Posts (GPs) equipped with weapons along its border with South Korea – a move seen as part of Pyongyang’s ongoing pressure campaign against Seoul and potentially sets the stage for future provocative activities at the frontline between the two states.

The South Korean military exposed images of what appears to be the North’s new Observation Posts (OPs) across the 11 GPs in the inter-Korean border Monday. A military official said the authorities also spotted North Korean troops, trenches as well as weapons, such as recoilless rifles.

“From the 24th [of November], activities such as the introduction of heavy weapons into this area, and day and night guard duties have been observed,” the official told reporters, adding that the observations were made through photos and night-vision thermal imaging taken from the frontline area using military surveillance equipment.

North Korea reinitiated its pressure campaign against the South last week when it declared an immediate and complete withdrawal of the military agreement designed to reduce hostilities between the two nations. It also pledged to deploy its latest weaponry along the borderline. 

Pyongyang’s decision came just a day after South Korea suspended the landmark 2018 inter-Korean military agreement as a countermeasure to Pyongyang’s illegal satellite launch that violated a United Nations Security Council resolution. Rocket technology can be used for both launching satellites and missiles. For that reason, the U.N. bans North Korea from launching a ballistic rocket, even if it claims to be a satellite launch.

Cheon Seong-whun, a former security strategy secretary for South Korea’s presidential office, sees escalated tensions in the Korean peninsula to be inevitable in the short term.

“North Korea’s actions appear to be a demonstration of their intentions, as they declared last week. They can fire artillery in the West Sea [Yellow Sea] or further restore additional GPs. This could temporarily escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” Cheon said.

The two Koreas had agreed in 2018 to halt what each defined as hostile actions toward the other near the border. Under the agreement, both North and South Koreas dismantled their GPs on their respective sides as a part of efforts to reduce military tensions and build trust.

According to South Korea’s defense ministry, however, the North has violated the agreement a total of 17 times up until last year since the agreement was signed. Critics in the South, thus, have long argued that the deal has already become ineffective, only serving to restrict Seoul’s operational and surveillance capabilities. 

 The blame game

Earlier on Monday, North Korea blamed the United States and South Korea for forcing it to scrap the inter-Korean military agreement.

“After the adoption of the Panmunjom Declaration on April 27, 2018, and the Pyongyang Joint Declaration in September, along with its annex, the North-South military agreement, the puppet clique has slavishly followed the United States, wantonly violating these agreements,” stated North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun on Monday, referring to South Korea as “puppet clique”.

“Over the past four years alone, various invasive war drills have been conducted over 600 times,” said the newspaper, referring to the joint drills between the U.S. and South Korea, as well as those including Japan. “Moreover, since the emergence of the Yoon Suk Yeol traitorous clique, the foremost puppet serving foreign nuclear war forces, the war exercises have become even more dangerously frenzied, escalating to a real-world level of threat.”

The report, however, did not mention North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s remarks to South Korean special envoy Chung Eui-yong in 2018, in which Kim stated that he “understands” Seoul’s position in conducting joint military exercises with the U.S.

North Korea has repeatedly expressed its unease with the intensifying trilateral collaboration among the U.S., South Korea, and Japan in the region. Pyongyang perceives this alliance as a threat to its regime’s security, primarily because it cannot match the advanced military capabilities of these allies. 

“Recently, the puppet traitorous clique held what they called a military authority meeting with its superiors, the Americans and the Japanese, where they conspired about ‘security cooperation’ between the three parties,” the Rodong Sinmun said, calling the South Korea a “war minion” of the U.S. and Japan.

The U.S., South Korea, and Japan are currently conducting maritime exercises near the South Korean island of Jeju since Sunday, aimed at strengthening close coordination and operational capabilities, according to the South’s defense ministry.

Cheon noted the challenging situation faced by the South Korean government in dealing with the North’s provocations. Escalating tensions, he emphasized, would not be beneficial for South Korea and pointed out the complexity of Seoul’s response.

“When South Korea suspended the September 19 military agreement, it only suspended the clause related to reconnaissance,” said Cheon. 

“This means that each time North Korea engages in provocative actions, South Korea is confronted with the difficult choice of whether to suspend additional parts of the agreement or the entire agreement,” Cheon added, stressing the need for South Korea to carefully formulate its overall military strategy to effectively handle the North Korean challenge.

Edited by Elaine Chan and Taejun Kang.

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COMMENTS

Michael R Betzer
Nov 27, 2023 02:13 AM

Glad to see things are back to normal. It's good that the Republic of Korea is no longer restrained by wishful thinking and unrealistic promises from the Kingdom of North Korea.