North Korea has been remaining silent for the past two days after it fired gunshots at a South Korean guard post (GP) at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The South Korean military sent a telephone notice to North Korea two days ago, demanding an explanation about the violation of the Sept. 19 Comprehensive Military Agreement but the North has not responded. Instead, the North criticized South Korea’s deployment of F-35 stealth fighters and Global Hawk through its state media, saying it is a reinforcement of military force aimed at invading North Korea and a military confrontation scheme. The United Nations Command on Monday launched a detailed investigation on the shots fired by North Korean soldiers.
North Korea has repeatedly fired missiles, violating its commitment to ease military tensions signed in the Sept. 19 Comprehensive Military Agreement. After U.S-North Korea Hanoi Summit broke down last year, the North has refused to deliver on its promises, such as carry out joint operations to recover war remains or withdraw troops from guard posts. Despite controversies, North Korea did not breach the key articles of the agreement, which stipulates that buffer zones must be established within the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) and the Northern Limit Line and hostile acts in the areas must be suspended.
The latest GP shooting, however, is an actual violation that breached the core of the military agreement. Furthermore, this is the second time the North violated the agreement. In November last year, North Korea conducted a coastal artillery drill on the western border island of Changrin in the presence of its leader Kim Jong Un. Only after North Korea reported the firing of rocket launchers, the South Korean military acknowledged it had detected sounds of the North’s test-firing and later lodged a complaint to North Korea. But South Korea did not receive any answers from the North.
Regardless the firing was intentional or not, South Korea appears that North Korea intends not to provide any explanations about the firing once again. Even if it was an accidental firing like the South Korean military is claiming, North Korea is strangely not showing any unusual movement or activity, continuing their usual activities after the shooting. North Korea might be focusing on managing the situation and ignoring South Korea’s complaint.
There have been criticisms that the Sept. 19 military agreement is already nullified by North Korea’s repeated provocations and calls for stronger action. Experts say the GP shooting could be a preparation for a bigger provocation, which has been the pattern with North Korea when its leader appears in public after prolonged public absence. Seoul should make a strong protest against Pyongyang in order to prevent the latter from making misjudgments. If Seoul lets Pyongyang off the hook this time again, the Sept. 19 agreement will become nothing but a scrap of paper.