South Korea’s new Defense Minister wants to suspend the 2018 military agreement with North Korea so Seoul can increase surveillance of Pyongyang.
“I will push to suspend the inter-Korean military agreement dated September 19, 2018, as soon as possible,” South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik told the press today. “Cancellation of the agreement requires a legal process, but I understand that suspension only requires cabinet approval.”
Mr. Shin, who took office on October 7, said that the 2018 military agreement established a no-fly zone near the border, significantly reducing the ability to monitor potential signs of provocation from North Korea.
“Our reconnaissance and surveillance assets need to be used to monitor North Korean military activities,” Mr. Shin said, adding that South Korea is facing increasing threats from North Korea. Mr. Shin also noted that Israel would not have suffered heavy damage in last weekend’s attack by Hamas if it had continuously used UAVs to monitor the situation in the Gaza Strip.
North Korea has not commented on Mr. Shin’s statement. Meanwhile, Mr. Shin is expected to face criticism from the opposition, who describe the agreement as a “safety valve” between the two regions.
The 2018 inter-Korean military agreement was signed at the third summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and then-South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who wanted to reconcile the two Koreas. The agreement established a buffer zone on land and sea, where artillery and naval exercises were suspended. No notable incidents occurred between the two sides after signing the agreement.
North Korea – South Korea relations are increasingly tense as Pyongyang continuously tests weapons in response to Seoul’s joint military exercises with Washington. North Korea has repeatedly criticized the exercises as evidence that South Korea and its allies have a hostile attitude and want regime change in Pyongyang.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who succeeded Mr. Moon, has a tough stance on the North Korean issue. Mr. Yoon announced at the end of September that he would protect the country from North Korea’s provocations by strengthening its ability to respond “immediately and overwhelmingly.”