North Korea said Thursday it will deploy new military hardware along the military demarcation line that separates it from the South after Seoul partially pulled back from a 2018 agreement designed to ease tensions along the border, state-run media reported.
North Korea acted after Seoul vowed to increase its intelligence and surveillance along the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in response to the launch of North Korea’s first-ever spy satellite on Tuesday, which analysts said could give Pyongyang information to better target opponents’ forces.
The reactive move by Seoul represents a partial retreat from the Inter-Korean Military Agreement, which was signed in 2018 as part of efforts with the US to contain the threat of war on the Korean Peninsula – and broaden the buffer zone between the two Koreas.
It was signed by then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Panmunjom on the border, with the text declaring “there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun.”
But any goodwill generated by the agreement has evaporated in recent years. Kim, who did not get the concessions he wanted from the US and South Korea during subsequent talks, has since ramped up the North’s ballistic missile program, pledging to give Pyongyang a nuclear deterrent like that possessed by Washington.
In response to the North Korean buildup, the US and South Korea – along with Japan – have stepped-up their military cooperation via exercises and deployments that Pyongyang sees as a threat.
Earlier this week North Korea denounced the US for its potential sales of advanced missiles to Japan and military equipment to South Korea, calling it “a dangerous act” in a report from KCNA.
North Korea said it was “obvious” who the offensive military equipment would be aimed at and used against.
On Thursday North Korea’s Defense Ministry said that its army will “never be bound” by the military agreement, vowing to deploy “more powerful armed forces and new-type military hardware in the region along the Military Demarcation Line,” according to KCNA.
It claimed that the agreement has “long been reduced to a mere scrap of paper owing to the intentional and provocative moves” of South Korea, and warned that it must “pay dearly” for its “irresponsible and grave political and military provocations that have pushed the present situation to an uncontrollable phase,” KCNA said.
Pyongyang also said that South Korea will be held “wholly accountable” for clashes that may break out between the two Koreas.
“The most dangerous situation in the area of the military demarcation line, where the world’s most acute military confrontation lingers and any slight accidental factor may aggravate an armed conflict to an all-out war, has become irreversibly uncontrollable, due to the serious mistake made by the political and military gangsters of the ‘ROK [Republic of Korea],’” KCNA said.