July 24, 2024

North Korea resumed launching balloons filled with trash toward South Korea on Monday night, marking a renewed phase in their ongoing Cold War-style campaign on the Korean Peninsula.

According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the balloons from North Korea, likely carrying debris, are drifting southeastward toward South Korean territory. The military has cautioned citizens not to handle any fallen objects and to promptly report sightings to authorities.

“The launches came shortly after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a major defense deal,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

The recent solidification of the defense pact between Kim and Putin has raised concerns among international observers about potential provocations from Pyongyang.

In a joint statement, South Korea, the United States, and Japan condemned the growing military collaboration between North Korea and Russia, emphasizing their commitment to enhancing regional security.

“The U.S. commitments to the defense of South Korea and Japan remain ironclad,” it said.

North Korea’s balloon campaign started in May, when it sent more than 1,000 balloons filled with materials such as manure, cloth scraps, and discarded batteries into South Korea. Pyongyang claims these actions are retaliation against South Korean activists who send anti-regime leaflets and cultural materials northward.

In response, Seoul has redeployed large loudspeakers along the border to broadcast anti-North Korean propaganda, including K-pop music and criticism of Pyongyang’s policies.

In response to the heightened tensions, the United States has deployed a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to South Korea for upcoming joint military exercises. North Korea has criticized this move as provocative, accusing the U.S. of using military drills as preparations for an invasion.

Amid these developments, experts caution about the potential for further escalations and unpredictable actions from North Korea, given its increased confidence following the defense pact with Russia.

“We also can’t rule out the possibility that North Korea might take more drastic provocative actions,” said Hong Min, a senior fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, and Agence France-Presse.


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