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N. Korea restores border guard posts amid heightened tensions

N. Korea restores border guard posts amid heightened tensions

Posted November. 29, 2023 08:16,   

Updated November. 29, 2023 08:16


Having declared a complete nullification of the September 19 Inter-Korean Military Agreement, North Korea has restored 10 out of 11 Guard Posts (GPs) within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), with the South Korean GPs within 1 kilometer. Following the North's restoration of GPs and deployment of troops and artillery, the South Korean military is planning to respond in kind. Military authorities are intensively reviewing measures against expected provocations by Pyongyang during the restoration of GPs, as disclosed on Tuesday. Among the 22 GPs between the two Koreas, three are so close - only 580 meters apart, which is within rifle range - that North Korea could potentially provoke localized incidents as soon as our military initiates restoration measures.

According to military sources, the South Korean military is coordinating the timing to commence restoration operations, having prepared all facilities and equipment, including modular watchtowers for temporary restoration, and firearms such as the K-6 machine gun. As North Korea is currently engaging in temporary restoration using wood rather than a complete reconstruction with concrete, our military plans to monitor the restoration level before taking further actions. The distance between the 11 GPs currently being restored and the 11 GPs on the opposite side in the South is all within 1 kilometer, except for one (1,060 meters), raising concerns that if North Korean forces engage in gunfire with heavy weapons, it may cause casualties, with the armed conflict potentially expanding beyond the DMZ.

Minister of National Defense Shin Won-sik convened a major military commanders' meeting on Tuesday, instructing the armed forces to be prepared for immediate response. Regarding the actual timing of the restoration of our GPs, a military official said, "We will observe the speed of North Korea's restoration and determine the most effective timing for initiating actions."

Regarding the arming of North Korean military personnel, totting pistols in the Joint Security Area (JSA) of Panmunjom from last week, a military official mentioned, "South Korea and the U.S. intelligence agencies are closely monitoring North Korean activities and considering corresponding response measures."

Hyo-Ju Son hjson@donga.com