North Korea suspends Seoul military agreement, restores troops at border

South Korea had already withdrawn from parts of the deal after Pyongyang launched a spy satellite on Tuesday.

Kim Jong Un standing on a balcony at a Pyongyang aerospace centre He is accompanied by military officers. He is smiling.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has already been able to view imagery of US military bases, according to state media [KCNA via KNS and AFP]

North Korea has said it will move more troops and military equipment to the border with South Korea, and will no longer be bound by a 2018 joint military accord after Seoul suspended parts of the agreement in response to Pyongyang’s launch of a military spy satellite.

North Korea will “never be bound” by the agreement, state media reported on Thursday, citing the Defence Ministry.

The Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) was signed at a 2018 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and former South Korean President Moon Jae-in as part of an attempt to reduce tensions on the peninsula and build trust between the two countries.

Seoul withdrew from parts of the deal on Wednesday after Pyongyang said it had successfully launched the Malligyong-1 into orbit, following failures in May and August.

“We will immediately restore all military measures that have been halted according to the North-South military agreement,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

“We will withdraw the military steps taken to prevent military tension and conflict in all spheres including ground, sea and air, and deploy more powerful armed forces and new-type military hardware in the region along the Military Demarcation Line,” it continued.

South Korea must “pay dearly for their irresponsible and grave political and military provocations that have pushed the present situation to an uncontrollable phase,” North Korea said.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, said risks were likely to rise as a result of the agreement being abandoned.

“South Korea has the technological edge, so will be able to conduct more sophisticated surveillance and exercises closer to the border,” Easley said in an email.

“But Seoul’s military intelligence and operational readiness were not seriously hampered by the CMA. And without the agreement, North Korea may be less restrained about its weapons deployments and maneuvers near the DMZ, which could increase the risks of miscalculation and conflict escalation on the Korean Peninsula.”

The rocket taking off in amid orange smoke and flame
The rocket carrying the Malligyong-1 lifted off late on Tuesday [KCNA via Reuters]

State media reported on Wednesday that Kim had already been able to review imagery sent back by the satellite of the United States’s military bases in the Pacific island of Guam.

Kim has made the successful development of reconnaissance satellites a priority of his military modernisation programme, arguing the equipment would improve North Korea’s ability to monitor its neighbour and deal with alleged threats from South Korea and the US.

The Malligyong-1 was launched late on Tuesday night, hours after Pyongyang had notified Japan of its intention to launch a satellite between November 22 and December 1.

Such launches are banned under UN Security Council sanctions designed to curb nuclear-armed North Korea’s ballistic missile programme, and it was swiftly condemned by South Korea, Japan, the US and the United Nations.

On Wednesday afternoon, in response to the launch, South Korea resumed surveillance operations on its northern border in a partial suspension of the 2018 deal

Source: Al Jazeera