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[Editorial] Unshackle security

NK scraps deal after violating it many times; Seoul must restore pre-accord steps quickly

By Korea Herald

Published : Nov. 27, 2023 - 05:30

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North Korea ripped up the Sept. 19, 2018, military confidence-building deal with South Korea on Thursday.

It was a reaction to South Korea’s partial retreat from the accord in response to the North’s launch of a spy satellite. Seoul had said it would suspend some of the measures in the accord and step up surveillance along the military demarcation line after the North launched its first satellite whose apparent use was military reconnaissance.

The North said that it would restore all military measures it had halted under the agreement. It also said that it will deploy much stronger armed forces and new weapons along the demarcation line that separates it from the South.

Pyongyang took issue with Seoul’s partial suspension of the agreement, but it falsely blamed the South for the wrongs it did.

The agreement should not have come about from the beginning because many of its clauses were disadvantageous to the South.

Moreover, the North violated it numerous times. It opened up shore-based gun ports in the buffer zone of the western sea about 3,400 times over the past five years. It fired about 600 shells in two days in the zone in October 2022. In December of the same year, its drone infiltrated into the skies over Seoul.

The previous Moon Jae-in administration, however, neither took issue with the North’s violations of the agreement nor informed the people of them.

South Korea alone has observed it. Its military neither conducted artillery fire training in the western sea nor opened up its artillery.

To comply with the accord, the Marine Corps moved K9 self-propelled howitzers inland from two western border islands for gunnery exercises, spending more than 10 billion won ($7.65 million) on moving the equipment for exercises.

South Korea’s partial retreat from the accord mostly to resume reconnoitering North Korea near the demarcation line is the minimum defensive response to the North’s launch of a military reconnaissance satellite to watch the South.

The North jumped at the South’s move to get the abnormal deal back to normal and declared it would scrap the accord and even vowed to further strengthen its front-line armament. From the start, Pyongyang had no intention to comply with the agreement. The deal was just bait to tear down South Korea’s defenses.

Lee Jae-myung, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, said that some people are concerned about the possibility of the Yoon Suk Yeol government inducing North Korea’s armed provocations near the military demarcation line to influence the upcoming general elections.

He raises conspiracy theories that the current government may organize a scheme to tempt North Korea into carrying out military provocations in a bid to highlight awareness of security among voters.

No matter how important the general elections are, security issues must be dealt with from the standpoint of national interest. Politicians must not try to shake security with politically motivated conspiracy theories.

The party’s floor leader called the government's partial suspension of the Sept. 19 accord the “wrong prescription” and said it must be maintained, expanded and developed because it prevents accidental clashes in border areas.

Abiding by an agreement that the enemy violates is self-injury to security. The Yoon government seeks to stop such a foolish act. It is a right move.

North Korea does not take international laws and agreements seriously as an obligation, but just as a means. If they are not useful, the North ignores them immediately. It is foolhardy and dangerous to expect it to comply with a security deal sincerely.

Now that the North scrapped the accord that had shackled South Korea’s security, the Yoon administration must restore security to the level before the deal quickly.