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North Korean army threatens to enter demilitarized areas

North Korean army threatens to enter demilitarized areas
North Korea's military announced on Tuesday that it was reviewing plans to re-enter demilitarized border areas amid a row with South Korea over information leaflets being sent by defectors. File Photo by Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA-EFE

June 16 (UPI) -- North Korea's military warned Tuesday that it was preparing action plans against South Korea, including advancing into border zones that had been demilitarized under an inter-Korean agreement signed in 2018, as tensions that began over a leaflet campaign by defectors continue to rise.

"Our army is keeping a close watch on the current situation in which the north-south relations are turning worse and worse, and getting itself fully ready for providing a sure military guarantee to any external measures to be taken by the party and government," the general staff of the Korean People's Army said in a statement carried by state-run media.

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Military leaders are "studying an action plan for taking measures to make the army advance again into the zones that had been demilitarized under the north-south agreement, turn the front line into a fortress and further heighten the military vigilance against the south," continued the statement from the Korean Central News Agency.

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The warning came days after Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, called South Korea an "enemy" and threatened military force.

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"If I drop a hint of our next plan the [S]outh Korean authorities are anxious about, the right to taking the next action against the enemy will be entrusted to the general staff of our army," she said via KCNA on Saturday.

Pyongyang has been issuing angry statements and threats against Seoul regularly for nearly two weeks, apparently triggered by the longstanding practice of North Korean defectors sending information leaflets across the border via balloons.

South Korean officials have moved to rein in the defectors, with the government announcing last Wednesday that it would press charges against two activist groups for sending the leaflets, while police and the coast guard have stepped up patrols at border areas.

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North Korea has severed communications lines with the South, cutting off channels at the inter-Korean liaison office in the border city of Kaesong as well as military and presidential hotlines.

Pyongyang has also spoken out angrily against the United States in recent days, warning Washington against meddling in inter-Korean affairs and condemning what it called an "empty promise" from President Donald Trump on Friday on the second anniversary of the historic summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

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Nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea have been at a standstill since a second Trump-Kim summit, held last year in Hanoi, Vietnam, failed to produce an agreement on issues such as sanctions relief for the North and a timetable for proceeding with denuclearization.

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After a 17-month hiatus, Pyongyang restarted tests of short-range missiles in the latter half of 2019 and has continued the launches in 2020.

At the end of last year, Kim Jong Un announced that there was no longer any reason for North Korea to be "unilaterally bound" to its commitment to halt nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday urged North Korea to stay on the course of peace and to implement the agreements reached during a pair of inter-Korean summits in 2018, including dismantling guard posts and withdrawing military personnel from parts of the DMZ.

"We cannot reverse the promise of peace on the Korean Peninsula," Moon said in remarks made on the 20th anniversary of a summit agreement between South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. "We ask North Korea not to close the window of dialogue."

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