Amid escalating tensions in the region, North Korea has withdrawn from a 2018 agreement with South Korea that reduced military tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang took the step after Seoul announced it would resume surveillance operations along the DMZ.
The relationship between Pyongyang and Seoul has been in a downward spiral since President Joe Biden took office. Tensions between North and South Korea spiked last week when Pyongyang successfully placed a military satellite into orbit.
North Korean state media reported the satellite allowed Kim Jong Un to view images of a US military facility in Guam.
Seoul and its backers in Tokyo and Washington condemned the satellite launch, claiming it violated UN resolutions. Pyongyang insists that it is within North Korea’s rights as a sovereign country to have spaced-based surveillance technology.
In response to North Korea’s successful launch, South Korea walked back its commitments to a 2018 inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA). The CMA reduced tensions on the Peninsula by limiting military activities.
South Korea announced it was breaking the CMA on Wednesday by resuming surveillance flights along the North Korean border. Seoul’s Defense Minister Shin Won-sik explained, “North Korea’s satellite launch is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and a serious provocation against [South Korea] and the international community.” South Korean Ministry of National Defense Spokesman Heo Tae-keun stated, “North Korea’s behavior shows again that it has no will to comply with the agreement.”
The North Korean Defense Ministry said Pyongyang would completely vacate the agreement. “We will immediately restore all military measures that have been halted according to the North-South military agreement,” Pyongyang’s state media outlet, KCNA, reported.
“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.”
The ministry’s statement continued that South Korea must “pay dearly for their irresponsible and grave political and military provocations that have pushed the present situation to an uncontrollable phase.”
After Biden took office, the US and South Korea resumed large-scale live-fire war games on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang views the operations as preparations for regime change in North Korea. The White House has further escalated tension by deploying multiple strategic weapons systems to South Korea and forming a trilateral military pact with Seoul and Tokyo that Pyongyang views as an Asian NATO.