North Korean soldiers return to guard posts along border with South
Seoul, Jun 18 (efe-epa).- Pyongyang has sent soldiers to guard posts along the border with the South that had remained vacant since 2018 after announcing that it would remilitarize the border in response to the sending of anti-regime propaganda leaflets.
Since late Wednesday, soldiers have been spotted being deployed to these posts inside Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the four-kilometre-wide strip separating the two countries, military sources said, according to local news agency Yonhap.
On Wednesday, the General Staff of the (North) Korean People’s Army (KPA) confirmed that that it would send troops to the guard posts, which had been empty since Seoul and Pyongyang signed an agreement in September 2018 to ease military tensions at the border, a pact that was seen at the time as a huge breakthrough for two countries that are technically still at war.
North Korea is estimated to have about 150 guard posts, at least a dozen of which were vacated after the agreement.
Seoul withdrew troops from another 10 of its posts.
The KPA General Staff also said that it would send troops to the southwestern city of Kaesong and the southeastern Mt Kumgang, both of which are located near the border separating the two countries and are symbols of inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation, and that it would resume all kinds of regular military exercises in the areas close to the boundary.
Some South Korean media also reported Thursday, citing anonymous sources, that around 100 soldiers have been seen in Kaesong, where the North destroyed the inter-Korean liaison office on Tuesday in protest of the sending of anti-regime leaflets in balloons over the border by activists in the South.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff also responded Wednesday, expressing concern over the redeployment of assets to the border as envisaged by the North Korean army and warned “if the North actually takes such a move, it will certainly pay the price for it.”
Analysts believe that the regime has found in the sending of balloons with propaganda an excuse to harden a strategy of pressure, which originated in the failed denuclearization summit between Pyongyang and Washington in Hanoi in February 2019.
After a year of intense diplomatic rapprochement, in the Vietnamese capital, the United States considered the North Korean disarmament plan insufficient and refused to lift sanctions.
Since then, and with negotiations stalled, Pyongyang has progressively hardened its tone with Washington and Seoul in an apparent attempt to force the restart of dialog for a relaxation of the sanctions that suffocate its economy, also affected this year by the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. EFE-EPA