Escalating tensions: North Korea threatens to attack South Korea over propaganda campaign

Friday, October 19, 2012
By Paul Martin
October 19, 2012

SEOUL, South Korea — The two Koreas are exchanging threats ahead of a planned launch of balloons in the South Monday to send leaflets to the North – an event Pyongyang considers a provocation. North Korea threatened on Friday to attack the South if activists proceeded with a plan to send leaflets north across the border criticizing the Pyongyang regime. South Korea’s military said it would immediately strike back if the North did so. The exchange of saber-rattling, though hardly unprecedented, comes at a politically sensitive time in South Korea, where a presidential election is to be held in December and parties are highly attuned to how a surprise North Korean move might affect the outcome. An umbrella group of anti-Pyongyang organizations, mostly led by defectors from the North, has announced plans to release balloons bearing propaganda leaflets on Monday in Imjingak, a South Korean village near the western border with North Korea. Activists have conducted similar balloon launches near the border before. The statement Friday, released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, said that as soon as a balloon launch is detected, the North Korean People’s Army “without warning will start a merciless attack” targeting Imjingak and its surroundings. “The leaflets are a most undisguised act of psychological warfare, a violation of the armistice and an intolerable act of war,” the statement said. It urged South Koreans to leave the targeted area. The two Koreas are technically at war, the 1950-53 Korean War having ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty. They have engaged in several skirmishes in recent years. Speaking to lawmakers on Friday, the South Korean defense minister, Kim Kwan-jin, noted that North Korea had issued similar threats before about leaflets from the South, without following up on them. But he said that if North Korea does strike, “we will eradicate their origin of attack.” Park Sang-hak, a North Korean defector who is organizing the leaflet campaign, said his group remained undeterred. “We send facts about the North Korean regime to the North Korean people through peaceful means,” he said. “We will send our balloons as planned.” –NY Times

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