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North Korea sends more trash-carrying balloons to South Korea

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea has launched hundreds more waste-carrying balloons to the South after a similar campaign days earlier, according to the South Korean military, in what Pyongyang calls retaliation against activists flying anti-North Korean leaflets across the border.

Between Saturday evening and Sunday morning, around 600 balloons sent from North Korea were found in various parts of South Korea. The balloons carried cigarette butts, pieces of cloth, waste paper and vinyl, but no hazardous substances were included, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Sunday.

The military advised people to be wary of falling objects and not to touch items suspected of coming from North Korea, but instead to report them to military or police offices. No injuries or damage were reported.

In Seoul, the city government sent text message alerts that unidentified objects suspected of coming from North Korea had been detected in the sky near the city and that the military was responding.

Northern balloon launches adds to a recent series of provocative measures, including the failure of spy satellite launch and and a barrage of short range missiles launches that the North said were intended to demonstrate its ability to attack the South preemptively.

South Korea’s military dispatched rapid chemical response and mine clearance teams to recover debris from some 260 North Korean balloons found in various parts of the country overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday. The military said the balloons carried various types of trash and manure, but no hazardous substances such as chemical, biological or radioactive materials. Some balloons were found with timers suggesting they were designed to burst trash bags in the air.

In a statement Wednesday, Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, confirmed that the North sent the balloons to follow through on her country’s recent threat to “scatter mounds of waste paper and garbage” in South Korea in response. leaflet distribution campaigns carried out by South Korean activists.

She suggested that balloons could become the North’s standard response to leafleting, saying the North would respond by “dispersing dozens of times more trash than is handed out to us.”

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said Friday that North Korea must stop its provocations – including missile launches and other acts – or face unspecified “unbearable” consequences.

South Korea’s military said it had no plans to shoot down the balloons, citing fears of damage or the possibility they contained dangerous substances. Balloon launches near the border would also risk triggering retaliation from the North at a time of high tension.

“(We) decided it was best to drop the balloons and recover them safely,” Lee Sung Joon, a spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a press briefing Thursday.

North Korea is extremely sensitive to any outside attempts to undermine Kim Jong Un’s absolute control over the country’s 26 million people, most of whom have little access to foreign information.

In 2020, North Korea blew up an empty liaison office built by South Korea on its territory after a furious response to South Korean civilian leafleting campaigns. In 2014, North Korea fired on propaganda balloons flying towards its territory and South Korea retaliated, causing no casualties.

In 2022, North Korea even suggested that balloons sent from South Korea caused a COVID-19 outbreak in the isolated country, a highly questionable claim that appeared to be an attempt to blame the South for deteriorating inter-Korean relations. .

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Associated Press writer Hyung-jin Kim contributed to this report.

News Source : apnews.com
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