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North Korea Halts Trash Balloon Campaign Against South Korea

by Mohammed Ahmed
North Korea Halts Trash Balloon Campaign Against South Korea

North Korea has announced it will cease its recent campaign of sending trash-filled balloons across the border into South Korea. This move comes after a week of escalating tensions, during which the North launched nearly a thousand balloons carrying bags of rubbish, including cigarette butts, cardboard, and plastic.

The campaign began on Tuesday as a response to anti-regime propaganda sent by activists in South Korea. These activists have a history of floating balloons over the border filled with leaflets, and sometimes cash, rice, or USB drives loaded with South Korean dramas.

South Korea’s military warned the public to avoid the falling debris, describing the campaign as “irrational” and “low-class.” However, unlike North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launches, this trash campaign does not breach any UN sanctions.

Seoul warned it would take strong countermeasures unless North Korea stopped the balloon bombardment, citing that it violates the armistice agreement which ended the Korean War hostilities in 1953. By late Sunday, North Korea declared it would “temporarily suspend” its campaign after scattering what it claimed was “15 tons of waste paper” using thousands of devices.

North Korea’s statement, carried by the Korean Central News Agency, asserted that the campaign was a “pure countermeasure” and warned of a much larger response if South Korea resumes the distribution of anti-DPRK leaflets.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that the balloons had been landing in northern provinces, including the capital Seoul and Gyeonggi, home to nearly half of South Korea’s population. The balloons contained waste such as cigarette butts, scrap paper, fabric pieces, and plastic. Military officials and police were actively collecting the debris.

The National Security Council of South Korea met on Sunday to discuss potential responses. A presidential official suggested that resuming loudspeaker propaganda campaigns along the border could be one possible reaction, a tactic that has previously infuriated Pyongyang.

The 2018 inter-Korean agreement had aimed to cease all hostile acts, including leaflet distribution, but South Korea’s parliament’s 2020 law criminalizing sending leaflets into the North was struck down last year as a violation of free speech.

Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, mocked South Korea’s complaints about the balloons, asserting that North Koreans were exercising their freedom of expression.

This trash campaign follows warnings from analysts that North Korea is testing weapons before sending them to Russia for use in Ukraine. South Korea’s defense minister recently stated that Pyongyang has shipped about 10,000 containers of arms to Moscow in exchange for Russian satellite technology.

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