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North Korea's multiple rocket launchers not a violation, Seoul says

North Korea deployed multiple rocket launchers on Changrin Islet near the border, along the western coast of the peninsula, according to South Korean press reports on Tuesday. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE
North Korea deployed multiple rocket launchers on Changrin Islet near the border, along the western coast of the peninsula, according to South Korean press reports on Tuesday. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE

March 23 (UPI) -- North Korea's decision to deploy multiple rocket launchers is not a violation of an inter-Korean military agreement, Seoul said, as Pyongyang strengthened defenses and proposed closer ties with Beijing.

South Korean military sources said Tuesday the North has deployed rocket launchers on Changrin Islet near the border, along the western coast of the peninsula, News 1 reported.

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The weapons, a 240mm multiple rocket launcher system with a 40-mile range, have been installed at a site where North Korean forces have stationed and operated other coastal artillery.

On Tuesday, South Korea's defense ministry said the changes do not defy the Sept. 19, 2018, agreement between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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"It seems inappropriate to conclude the Sept. 19 agreement was violated or incapacitated solely because certain kinds of weapons were deployed," said defense ministry spokesman Boo Seung-chan.

North Korea's activities on Changrin may have run afoul of the pact in the past.

In November 2019, KCNA reported artillery was fired from the area as Kim provided field guidance. The firing came after North Korea engaged in a series of military provocations, including the testing of a new weapons system and a submarine-launched ballistic missile. The inter-Korean pact states both sides would cease all military hostilities at the border in favor of improving ties.

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Earlier this month, North Korean official Kim Yo Jong condemned U.S.-South Korea joint exercises as a practice for an "invasion." Kim had also warned that the North could "destroy" the inter-Korean military agreement.

North Korea could be pushing the South's patience to its outer limits at a time when it is building closer ties with China.

KCNA reported Tuesday the North Korean leader and China's Xi Jinping pledged to "strengthen strategic communication, based on the strong relationship" between the Chinese Communist Party and the Korean Workers' Party.

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The two countries agreed to cope with the "disruptions of hostile forces" through "unity and cooperation," state media said.

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