Mon, Feb 28, 2011 - Page 1 News List

N Korea threatens armed action over propaganda

AFP, SEOUL

North Korea will launch cross border attacks if Seoul continues to send anti-regime propaganda over the heavily-fortified frontier, state media warned yesterday.

The North’s military will begin firing on border areas where the South’s activists and military launch balloons carrying anti-government leaflets and DVDs, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

“Our military in self-defense will launch direct, targeted firing attacks towards the origins of such anti--republic propaganda activities ... if the practice continues despite our repeated warnings,” KCNA said.

The North’s military, in the message carried by KCNA, urged the South to stop the “psychological warfare at once.”

Tensions are likely to remain high on the Korean Peninsula with the start today of annual joint exercises between the US and South Korea, which run until March 10 and which Pyongyang claims will make war more likely.

The warning came days after a lawmaker claimed the South’s military was sending news of uprisings against repressive regimes in the Middle East and North Africa. Conservative opposition politician Song Young-sun, citing a report from the defense ministry, said balloons carrying humanitarian supplies such as medicine and clothes were being launched.

She said the balloons also carried leaflets warning of the fate of dictatorships in the Arab world and were aimed at getting information to North Koreans, who are largely cut off from the outside world.

Private activists in the South have for years used helium balloons to smuggle US dollar notes, DVDs and leaflets denouncing the North’s regime and leader Kim Jong-il into the hermit state.

Seoul has held back its own propaganda campaign after the North repeatedly expressed its anger and threatened to retaliate. However, the program was revived after cross-border ties plunged following the North’s artillery attack on a South Korean frontier island that killed four people. Seoul said Pyongyang has tightened controls on information amid growing popular revolts against despots in the Arab world.

However, experts say the Kim family is expected to retain its iron grip on power, in the absence of Internet access or institutions around which any revolt could coalesce.

South Korean Minister of Unification Hyun In-taek said in a Yonhap interview last week he expected the North to take steps to stop the turmoil spilling over to its 24 million people.

“I think the core of the leadership knows of the situation and sees it. From that viewpoint, it will obviously make efforts to keep the regime from being negatively influenced,” Hyun said.

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