North Korea government vowed on Monday to dump some 14 million propaganda leaflets on South Korea in a measure it calls “retaliatory punishment” as tensions remain high on the Korean Peninsula.
“Publishing and printing institutions at all levels in the capital city have turned out 14 million leaflets of all kinds reflective of the wrath and hatred of the people from all walks of life,” a report in state-run Korean Central News The report said “various equipment and means of distributing leaflets,” including more than 3,000 balloons, have been prepared.
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The move comes in response to the longstanding practice of defectors in the South sending leaflets criticizing the North Korean government across the border, which has become the source of heated denunciations from Pyongyang for more than two weeks.
The isolated state’s diplomatic relations with Washington and Seoul have stalled out since a summit last year between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed to produce an agreement on denuclearization and sanctions relief.
It is unclear if North Korea also plans to use drones or other unmanned aircraft to send the leaflets, which “outspokenly disclose and slam the criminal acts of the South Korean authorities,” according to a report in KCNA on Saturday.
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South Korean officials said Monday their response would depend on the method North Korea uses to spread the leaflets.
“We are closely monitoring moves by the North Korean military regarding the leafleting round the clock,” Col. Kim Jun-rak, a representative of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a press briefing on Monday, according to news agency Yonhap. “In preparations for diverse possibilities, we maintain a firm readiness posture.”
North Korea’s latest provocation comes days after the communist state demolished the inter-Korean liaison office in its border town of Kaesong and announced that it would deploy troops to areas that had been demilitarized under a military agreement with South Korea.
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Pyongyang had previously cut off all communications lines with Seoul after Kim Yo Jong, sister of Kim Jong Un, said it was “high time to surely break with the South Korean authorities,” calling them an “enemy.”
The South Korean government has moved to rein in the defector groups responsible for sending the leaflets, saying the activities “violate the agreement between the two Koreas, creating tensions and giving rise to dangers that threaten the safety and livelihoods of [South Korean] residents.”
Officials announced they would press charges against two activist groups, while police and the coast guard have stepped up patrols at border areas.
Park Sang-hak, the leader of Fighters for Free North Korea, one of the defector groups singled out by the South Korean government, told UPI he still plans to send a huge cache of leaflets over the border on Thursday, the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.
His brother, Park Jung-oh, who leads a defector group called Kuensaem, had planned to deliver plastic bottles filled with rice to the North on Sunday, but postponed the event, citing in a press statement the “threats” from Pyongyang and the anxious atmosphere in South Korea.
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North Korea said its plan to drop leaflets on the South “is an eruption of the unquenchable anger of all the people and the whole society.”
“South Korea has to face the music,” Monday’s KCNA statement said. “The time for retaliatory punishment is drawing near.”