North Korea scraps military deal with South, vows to deploy new weapons at border By Reuters

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By Soo-hyang Choi

SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korea said on Thursday it would restore all military measures it had halted under a 2018 deal with South Korea designed to de-escalate tension along their shared border, vowing to forward deploy stronger armed forces and new weapons.

The announcement by the North’s defence ministry came a day after South Korea suspended part of the inter-Korean deal in response to Pyongyang’s launch of a spy satellite and said it would immediately step up surveillance along the heavily fortified border with the North.

“From now on, our army will never be bound by the September 19 North-South Military Agreement,” the statement said.

“We 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.”

North Korea accused South Korea of scrapping the deal, known as the Comprehensive Military Agreement, and said Seoul will be held “wholly accountable in case an irretrievable clash breaks out” between the two Koreas.

North Korea’s statement came hours after it fired a ballistic missile toward the sea east of the Korean peninsula late on Wednesday. South Korea’s military said the launch appeared to have failed.

A U.S. Department of State spokesperson said South Korea’s decision to suspend part of the agreement was a “prudent and restrained response,” citing 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,” the official said, referring to South Korea and North Korea respectively by the initials of their official names.

The suspended North-South pact was signed at a 2018 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Critics have said the pact weakened Seoul’s ability to monitor North Korea while Pyongyang had violated the agreement.

North Korea said on Tuesday it placed its first spy satellite in orbit, drawing international condemnation for violating U.N. resolutions that bar its use of technology applicable to ballistic missile programs.

South Korea has said the North Korean satellite was believed to have entered orbit, but it would take time to assess whether the satellite was operating normally.

Tuesday’s launch was the North’s third this year after two previous attempts failed, and followed Kim’s visit to Russia, during which President Vladimir Putin promised to help the North build satellites.

South Korean officials said the North Korean launch most likely involved Russian technical assistance under a growing partnership that has seen Pyongyang supply Russia with millions of artillery shells.

Russia and North Korea have denied arms deals but have promised deeper cooperation.

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