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North Korea fully suspends military pact with South

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North Korea has revoked a five-year deal with South Korea to lower military tensions, following claims of successfully launching a spy satellite into space. This led to South Korea suspending the agreement and resumed surveillance flights along the border. Pyongyang now vows to fully suspend the pact and send stronger forces and equipment to the border. The North-South Military Agreement was signed in 2018 to de-escalate tensions between the two countries and prevent a conflict from erupting.

South Korea’s military confirmed that the satellite had entered orbit but said it was too soon to determine its functionality. Seoul strongly condemned the launch and agreed to restart surveillance operations along the border, allowing the South to monitor North Korean outposts and long-range artillery. However, North Korea has violated the pact multiple times over the past two years, launching missiles and firing artillery rounds in the South’s direction. In December, it sent drones across the border into South Korea, with one flying as far as the capital Seoul.

Some analysts argue that Pyongyang officially withdrawing from the deal might not make much of a difference. Jo Bee Yun of the Korea Institute for Defence Analysis believes that the possibility of limited collision has always been there because North Korea was not adhering to the agreement in the first place. Though both sides are blaming each other for escalating tensions and threatening to retaliate, Jo Bee Yun called this a “political tit-for-tat” that would not necessarily result in a “physical military collision.”

The outcome will likely depend on what action the North now takes. Retired South Korean Army lieutenant general Chun In-bum predicts that the North will start by displaying artillery along the border and flying more drones, possibly into South Korean territory. South Korea’s defence minister Shin Won-sik warned earlier that if the North used the suspension as an excuse to carry out provocations, Seoul would “immediately and firmly punish it to the end.”