A group of North Korean defectors said yesterday that they had flown a fresh batch of anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets over the border, a move considered highly provocative by the communist state.
Lee Min-bok, who leads a group of North Korean Christians, said they sent 1.5 million leaflets into the North on Friday from Baekryeong island near the inter-Korean border in the Yellow Sea.
“We sent a total of 1.5 million leaflets carried by 26 helium balloons into the North on Friday,” Lee of the North Korea Christian Association told journalists.
Plastic bags, which contained daily necessities such as socks, stockings, toothpaste, toothbrushes, aspirin, ball-point pens and cigarette lighters, were also floated on sea currents flowing north, he said.
“We had favorable weather conditions this month,” Lee said, adding the group had scattered millions of such leaflets this month by taking advantage of winds blowing north.
“We’re sending these leaflets for the purpose of evangelizing North Koreans and rescuing them,” he said.
Activists, mostly North Korean defectors, have been sending leaflets across the border for years without creating much of a stir.
But the fliers became a major cause of tension against the backdrop of worsening inter-Korean ties, especially after they touched on the reported health problems of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
North Korea’s Committee for Peaceful Unification of the Fatherland (CPUF) on Friday issued a fresh warning against what it said was the South’s policy of confrontation.
“We’ll never tolerate the anti-Republic [North Korea] moves by the current South Korean regime and we will certainly settle the score with them,” a spokesman for the CPUF was quoted as saying by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency.
Inter-Korean ties have been deteriorating towards those seen during the Cold War since the inauguration of the conservative government of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in February.
Lee rolled back his liberal predecessor’s policy of engagement by linking economic aid to the North with progress in denuclearization, openness and reform, terms highly unlikely to be accepted by the hardline communist state.
This month, the North expelled hundreds of South Korean workers from the Kaesong joint industrial estate and imposed strict border controls, in protest at what it called the South’s policy of confrontation.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview released on Friday that only an “idiot” would trust North Korea, which is why the US is insisting on a way to check its nuclear claims.
A 2005 multilateral deal under which Pyongyang would abandon its nuclear programs has become snagged on Pyongyang’s refusal to spell out a protocol on how to verify its disclosures about its nuclear programs.
The sticking point appears to be North Korea’s reluctance to allow inspectors to take samples to test a declaration of its atomic program that it submitted this year as part of the aid-for-disarmament agreement.
US President George W. Bush had hoped an agreement on verification with North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test in October 2006, would have opened the way to dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear arms capacity.
Speaking to a group of foreign policy experts and students on Wednesday, Rice rejected criticism from US conservatives who believe the Bush administration has been too trusting of Pyongyang in recent years.