The recent escalation of military tension between South Korea and North Korea raises concerns as the North Korean army takes provocative steps, reversing the progress made in the September 19 inter-Korean military agreement. Reports indicate that North Korea has redeployed troops, restored guard posts in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and increased the presence of heavy weapons. The Joint Security Area (JSA) of Panmunjom has witnessed North Korean soldiers carrying pistols, and there is a rise in the frequency of artillery shells along the West Sea coastline. In response, South Korea’s military has convened the commanding officers’ meeting and decided on corresponding measures, including the restoration of guard posts.
This move by North Korea follows its recent declaration to abandon the September 19 military agreement, signaling a return to the state of five years ago and a potential escalation in military confrontation. The dismantling of guard posts and disarmament in the JSA, once seen as a positive outcome of the agreement, is now being reversed. There is a growing concern that North Korea may escalate further, deploying new weapons, including tactical nuclear missiles, and engaging in artillery fire and military training.
South Korea finds itself in a position where it must respond to North Korea’s provocations. While the South Korean military had initially displayed caution by suspending the no-fly zone ban, it demonstrated restraint towards the reinstallation of guard posts and rearmament in the JSA. However, the recent actions by North Korea leave little room for restraint, and, responding in accordance with the principle of proportionality, South Korea is reviewing the reinstallation of guard posts and rearmament in the JSA. However, the restoration of guard posts raises a legitimate concern about the vulnerability of South Korean military positions to unexpected attacks from North Korea, necessitating strong readiness and standby measures.
The military tension between the two Koreas has eliminated the buffer that prevented direct clashes at the border, increasing the risk of inadvertent conflict. North Korea’s potential use of covert tactics, such as provocations disguised as accidental warfare, adds to the complexity of the situation. The South Korean military must demonstrate mature responsiveness based on firm strength, resolve, and readiness. Seoul must ensure a severe counterattack in the face of reckless provocations from North Korea. The South Korean military must accurately assess North Korea’s tactics and formulate effective responses.