North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has decided to suspend planned military action against South Korea over a tit-for-tat argument over balloon-transported propaganda.
The de-escalation was reported by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency after Kim chaired a meeting of the ruling party’s Central Military Commission.
In a massive step down the meeting also discussed documents outlining measures for “further bolstering the war deterrent of the country,” KCNA reported.
Tension has been mounting in the peninsula, with a South Korean group launching hundreds of thousands of leaflets by balloon across the border with North Korea, despite Pyongyang repeatedly warning it that it will forcefully retaliate against such actions.
Pyongyang claims violates an agreement between the two aimed at preventing military confrontation.
In recent display of aggression the North blew up a joint liaison office on its side of the border, declared an end to dialogue with the South, and threatened military action because of the balloons.
Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, warned last week of retaliatory measures against South Korea that could involve the military, without elaborating.
The General Staff of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) warned it has been studying an “action plan” to re-enter zones had been demilitarised under an inter-Korean pact and “turn the front line into a fortress.”
North Korea’s military was also seen putting up loudspeakers near the demilitarised zone (DMZ), a military source said on Tuesday. Such systems were taken down after the two Koreas signed an accord in 2018 to cease “all hostile acts.”
The step down comes despite activist Park Sang-hak alleging his organisation floated 20 huge balloons carrying 500,000 leaflets, 2,000 one-dollar bills and small books on North Korea from the border town of Paju on Monday night.
On the same day pictures emerged of 3,000 balloons being prepped by the north, with The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reporting that angry North Koreans were gearing up for their own “large-scale” leaflet campaign.
It is unclear if this went ahead.
The newscaster said: “The time for retaliatory punishment is fast approaching.
“Publishing and printing institutions at all levels in the capital city have turned out 12 million leaflets of all kinds reflective of the wrath and hatred of the people from all walks of life.
The two Koreas, which are still technically at war as their 1950-53 conflict ended without a peace treaty.
They have waged leaflet campaigns for decades but agreed to cease “all hostile acts” in a 2018 peace accord, though relations have remained volatile.