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South Korea national security chief warns of more North Korea provocations

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea national security chief warns of more North Korea provocations
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has engaged in multiple rocket tests despite three summits with U.S. President Donald Trump. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 6 (UPI) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in's national security adviser said Tuesday North Korea's launch of short-range missiles is not a violation of an inter-Korea military agreement reached in 2018, while warning there is "always a possibility" North Korea could continue to engage in provocations.

Chung Eui-yong, a veteran South Korean diplomat who has often led delegations to Pyongyang, also said Seoul is in communication with the North Koreans amid a rising trend of weapons tests, Yonhap reported.

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"Our government position is that North Korea's launch of short-range vehicles are not a violation of the Sept. 19 South-North military agreement," Chung told lawmakers during a session of the National Assembly's steering committee.

Chung made the statement in response to a question from conservative lawmaker Kim Hyun-ah of the Liberty Korea Party.

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"We are in sufficient communication with the North, through various channels, regarding this issue [of the rocket test] and others," Chung said, adding that he "cannot disclose the content of the communication with North Korea" but has "sufficiently communicated" Seoul's position on the matter.

The presidential national security chief also said there is "always a possibility" North Korea provocations could continue to take place.

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"We do not think [North Korea's provocations] are a major threat. Our [South Korean military] has sufficient military capability to respond," Chung said.

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Chung's downplaying of North Korea's weapons tests comes after multiple rounds of rocket launches. Pyongyang has said it is displeased with South Korea's decision to hold military exercises with the United States, which began in August.

The tests also come at a time when North Korea's economy is contracting, Seoul Pyongyang News reported Tuesday.

South Korea's unification ministry said in a report on economic trends North Korea's total GDP fell by 4.1 percent from 2017 to 2018.

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The negative growth is the lowest in South Korea's record, since 1997, when the North Korean economy contracted by 6.5 percent as a catastrophic famine hit the country, killing millions, according to the United Nations.

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