Pyongyang, North Korea, announced on Thursday that it would strengthen its military presence and introduce new-type military hardware along the border with Seoul, following South Korea’s suspension of a part of a 2018 agreement that aimed to ease tensions between the two sides.
The North’s defence ministry said in a statement that it would no longer abide by the September 19 North-South Military Agreement, which had halted some military activities in the ground, sea and air near the Military Demarcation Line.
“Our army will withdraw the military steps, taken to prevent military tension and conflict in all spheres including ground, sea and air, and deploy more powerful armed forces and new-type military hardware in the region along the Military Demarcation Line,” the statement said, according to the KCNA news agency.
The statement came a day after South Korea said it would resume surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the border area in response to North Korea’s launch of a spy satellite on Tuesday, which Seoul said violated United Nations resolutions and threatened regional security .
The satellite launch was the third attempt by the North this year, with the previous two failing, and was seen as a sign of Pyongyang’s growing partnership with Russia, which has pledged to help the North develop satellites.
North Korea and Russia have denied any arms deals, but have vowed to deepen their cooperation, including on satellites .
South Korea’s decision to suspend part of the inter-Korean deal, known as the Comprehensive Military Agreement, was backed by the United States, which said it was a “prudent and restrained response” to North Korea’s “failure to adhere to the agreement”.
“The ROK suspension will restore surveillance and reconnaissance activities along the ROK side of the Military Demarcation Line, improving the ROK’s ability to monitor DPRK threats,” a U.S. Department of State spokesperson said, using the official names of South Korea and North Korea.
The CMA was signed at a 2018 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as part of a diplomatic process that stalled by 2019.
A former adviser to President Moon, Moon Chung-in, said that the CMA’s collapse could increase the risk of confrontation along the border, as accidental clashes could escalate into full-blown conflict, including nuclear strikes.
“We have every reason to try to reduce risk and tension and instead the South is going in the opposite direction,” he said.
Critics of the CMA have argued that it weakened Seoul’s ability to monitor North Korea, and that Pyongyang had violated the agreement.
“The CMA was a good agreement in theory, since risk reduction and confidence- and security-building measures are beneficial to both sides by reducing the risk of tactical clashes and inadvertent escalation,” said a former CIA analyst, Bruce Klingner.
“However, with further measures stalled, the measure came at the cost of curtailing allied capabilities.”
North Korea also fired a ballistic missile toward the sea off its east coast late on Wednesday, which South Korea’s military said appeared to have failed.