KOREA NEWS South Korea may suspend parts of military agreement if...

South Korea may suspend parts of military agreement if North launches satellite, report says

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A South Korean soldier stands guard near a small tree on the southern side of the Joint Security Area in the Demilitarized Zone, May 29, 2019. It was planted a year earlier to mark a historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in. (Aaron Kidd/Stars and Stripes)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — An inter-Korean agreement designed to lower tensions on the peninsula could be partially suspended if North Korea attempts a military satellite launch, according to a South Korean news report.

Seoul is considering suspending provisions within the Comprehensive Military Agreement “as a precautionary measure against North Korean provocations,” including the launch of a spy satellite, Yonhap News reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed South Korean government official.

South Korea may restart reconnaissance operations near the border’s coasts if the North attempts to put a spy satellite into orbit.

The agreement, which prohibits armed troops at the border and establishes no-fly zones, also constrains Seoul’s military readiness and reconnaissance capabilities against North Korea, according to a statement Tuesday from the South’s Ministry of National Defense.

The agreement was signed in 2018 by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in, following three summits that year at the Demilitarized Zone and in Pyongyang.

The measures were “based on the common understanding that easing military tension and building confidence on the Korean Peninsula is integral to securing lasting and stable peace,” according to the Comprehensive Military Agreement.

The agreement established deconfliction measures, including a no-fly zone for all types of aircraft above the Military Demarcation Line separating the two Koreas, an end to live-fire artillery drills within 3.1 miles of the border and the withdrawal of soldiers from guard posts within 1,093 yards of the DMZ.

The agreement also bans unmanned aerial vehicles from flying within 9.3 miles of the border in the east and 6.2 miles in the west.

Gen. Kim Seung Kyum, chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, criticized the agreement last month during a National Assembly hearing in Seoul. The 5-year-old deal was a “disguised peace offensive” and negatively affected Seoul’s security, he said.

North Korea has failed to put a satellite into orbit twice so far this year.

The first attempt failed on May 31. Five weeks later, the South’s military salvaged pieces of the launch vehicle that had “no military utility” in the Yellow Sea, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

The communist regime last tried to put a Malligyong-1 satellite into orbit on Aug. 24. That launch failed due to a flaw in the rocket’s third stage emergency blasting system, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported at the time.

North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration pledged to make another attempt in October; South Korea has reported no such launch.

The Yonhap report comes a day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik for an annual security conference in Seoul on Monday.

Speaking to reporters during a press conference at the ministry’s headquarters, Austin reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to South Korea’s defense, which included Washington’s nuclear, conventional and missile defense capabilities.

“I’m proud to say that our alliance is stronger than ever,” he said.

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