(2nd LD) N. Korea launches over 300 trash-carrying balloons toward S. Korea since Saturday


(ATTN: UPDATES with defense minister’s meeting, latest details in paras 13-20; CHANGES photo)

SEOUL, June 9 (Yonhap) — North Korea has launched hundreds more balloons carrying trash toward South Korea over the past two days, Seoul’s military said Sunday, amid heightened tensions over Pyongyang’s continued balloon campaign.

As of 10 a.m., the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it had detected some 330 waste-carrying balloons launched by the North since Saturday, with more than 80 of them landing inside South Korea and the rest apparently failing to reach the country.

The latest balloons appeared to be carrying trash, such as scraps of paper and plastic, the JCS said, noting that it was preparing for the possibility of the North launching additional balloons.

Balloons carrying garbage, presumably sent by North Korea, are seen floating on the Yellow Sea on June 9, 2024, in this photo provided by the Seven Stars cruise ship. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Balloons carrying garbage, presumably sent by North Korea, are seen floating on the Yellow Sea on June 9, 2024, in this photo provided by the Seven Stars cruise ship. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The latest balloon campaign came after South Korean civic groups’ launch of large balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang propaganda to the North between Thursday and Friday.

Since May 28, the North has staged the balloon campaign, which it described as a “tit-for-tat” response to anti-Pyongyang leafleting by activists in South Korea. It launched nearly 1,000 trash-carrying balloons into the South late last month and early last week.

Last Sunday, the North announced it would temporarily suspend the balloon campaign after Seoul warned of “unendurable” countermeasures, but threatened to send “a hundred times the amount of toilet paper and filth” in response to any further leafleting from the South.

The Seoul metropolitan government said it has received reports of about 30 of these balloons as of 8 a.m.

Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, a port city west of Seoul, also reported balloons in various locations, including at the Yellow Sea and other residential areas south of the border with North Korea.

So far, no casualties or property damage have been reported.

Authorities advised people not to touch the objects and to report them to nearby military or police authorities, warning of possible damage from the balloons.

The government said it will operate an emergency response team to ensure public safety and consult with military authorities to come up with “fundamental measures” against Pyongyang’s repeated balloon campaigns.

“North Korea is once again conducting despicable provocations by sending trash balloons to our civilian regions,” Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon wrote on Facebook on Saturday night.

In response, the National Security Council convened a meeting and approved resumption of propaganda broadcasts by front-line troops for the first time in about six years, which had been suspended following a 2018 inter-Korean tension reduction pact.

President Yoon Suk Yeol last week endorsed a motion to fully suspend the Comprehensive Military Agreement, which cleared the way for resuming propaganda broadcasts near the border.

It would be the first propaganda broadcast near the heavily fortified border since January 2016, when the South Korean military resumed its loudspeaker campaign in retaliation for North Korea’s fourth nuclear test.

The loudspeakers used to air criticism of the Kim Jong-un regime’s human rights abuses, news and K-pop songs, drawing angry responses from Pyongyang.

“The soon-to-be resumed loudspeaker broadcasts are expected to be similar to previous broadcasts,” a defense ministry official said.

Following the NSC meeting, Defense Minister Shin Won-sik held a meeting with major commanders to order heightened vigilance and a firm response in case of the North’s provocations.

Amid heightened tension, the defense ministry issued an emergency order for all troops to be on standby.

The South Korean military plans to resume military drills near the Military Demarcation Line and its northwestern border islands for the first time in more than five years, following the full suspension of the 2018 pact.

ejkim@yna.co.kr

yunhwanchae@yna.co.kr
(END)



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