A South Korean marine takes aim while training in Pohang, South Korea, March 29, 2023.

A South Korean marine takes aim while training in Pohang, South Korea, March 29, 2023. (David Choi/Stars and Stripes)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — South Korea has formally suspended a military deconfliction agreement with North Korea in response to ballistic missile tests and trash-filled balloons sent across the border.

The suspension took effect 3 p.m. Tuesday and scraps the entirety of the Comprehensive Military Agreement that prohibited Seoul and Pyongyang from conducting artillery drills and military flights near the border that divides the Korean Peninsula, deputy policy minister Cho Chang-rae said in a televised news briefing that day.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol approved of the plan after Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and other cabinet members held an emergency meeting in Seoul earlier Tuesday.

South Korea’s military will resume all suspended activities at the border “until mutual trust between the South and the North is restored,” Cho said. The ministry did not provide information on potential military drills.

“The North Korean regime is solely responsible for causing this situation, and if it makes additional provocations, the South Korean military will sternly punish it …,” Cho said.

South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Col. Lee Sung-jun declined to go into specifics on future drills during a news conference Tuesday, but said the military was “prepared … to perform them immediately.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then-President Moon Jae-in signed the accords on Sept. 19, 2018, during a summit in Pyongyang. The leaders vowed to restore relations severed after the 1950-53 Korean War.

The South Korean government had warned the North that its ballistic missile tests and satellite launches were grounds to formally withdraw from the agreement.

Following North Korea’s successful satellite launch on Nov. 21, Seoul partially suspended a provision in the agreement that banned aerial reconnaissance operations at the border.

That suspension prompted Pyongyang to fully withdraw from the agreement and reinstate armed troops at guard posts along the border, according to a state-run Korean Central News Agency report on Nov. 24.

North Korea has launched ballistic missiles in six separate days of testing so far this year and four rockets carrying satellites in the past 12 months.

South Korea and the United States consider these missile tests and satellite launches a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting the communist regime from using ballistic missile technology.

“North Korea’s declaration of its de facto withdrawal has already resulted in … continued provocations,” as well as hampering South Korea’s military readiness, the South Korean presidential cabinet said in a news release Tuesday.

South Korea’s government also alleged the suspension was predicated on North Korea’s weeklong provocations.

North Korea sent roughly 980 balloons carrying trash and manure to the South between May 28 and June 1. The balloons were dispatched in retaliation for South Korean human rights activists who frequently sent balloons carrying aid, according to a KCNA report on May 26.

Debris from at least one of those balloons fell onto Osan Air Base, a U.S. installation 30 miles south of Seoul.

The communist regime also attempted to jam the South Korean military’s GPS signals at the maritime border for several days last week, according to the National Defense Ministry.

“The South Korean military makes it clear that it will take all necessary measures to protect the lives and safety of its people in response to North Korea’s provocations,” Cho said.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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