June 25, 2024
North Korea sent more than 260 balloons carrying trash and manure across the border into the South, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday. Photo courtesy of South Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff

1 of 4 | North Korea sent more than 260 balloons carrying trash and manure across the border into the South, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday. Photo courtesy of South Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff

SEOUL, May 29 (UPI) — North Korea launched hundreds of balloons carrying trash and excrement across the border into South Korea, Seoul’s military said Wednesday, in apparent retaliation for activists floating propaganda leaflets from the South.

As of 4 p.m. local time, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had detected more than 260 balloons dropped since late Tuesday night into various parts of the country. The balloons that landed were being collected by a chemical, biological and nuclear rapid response team and an explosive ordnance team, the JCS said in a statement sent to reporters.

“North Korea’s actions blatantly violate international law and seriously threaten the safety of our citizens,” the statement said. “These North Korean balloons can fall not only in residential areas but also at airports and highways, potentially causing damage.”

The balloons appeared to carry items of trash as well as manure, the JCS said. Images shared by the military and users on social media showed large white balloons carrying bags attached by string. Spilled contents on sidewalks and roads included pieces of plastic, batteries, toilet paper and dark soil.

Authorities were also investigating whether there were any North Korean propaganda leaflets in the balloons.

The launch came days after a North Korean official warned of “tit-for-tat action” against South Korean activists floating balloons filled with leaflets and USB drives over the border.

The South has been conducting “despicable psychological warfare by scattering leaflets and various dirty things near border areas of the DPRK,” Vice Defense Minister Kim Kang Il said in a statement issued on Sunday.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.

“Mounds of wastepaper and filth will soon be scattered over the border areas and the interior of the ROK and it will directly experience how much effort is required to remove them,” Kim said, using the South’s official name of the Republic of Korea.

North Korea has reacted with fury in the past to defector-led activist groups sending balloons across the border. In June 2020, Pyongyang severed all communications with Seoul and blew up an inter-Korean liaison office over what it called South Korea’s failure to rein in the defectors.

In a separate statement, a JCS official said that the South’s military also detected North Korean attempts to jam GPS signals near the de facto inter-Korean maritime border in the Yellow Sea early Wednesday morning. The jamming attempt caused no damage, the official said.

The actions come as tensions on the Korean Peninsula remain at their highest point in years amid weapons tests and heated rhetoric from the North. On Monday night, Pyongyang attempted to place its second spy satellite into orbit but failed when a newly developed rocket engine exploded in flight.

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