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Sth Korea warns of more trash-filled balloons from North

More trash-filled balloons from North Korea are expected to litter the South from tomorrow, Seoul’s military has said, days after Pyongyang began its campaign to punish its neighbour.

North Korea sent around 260 balloons carrying bags of trash – including waste batteries, cigarette butts and what appeared to be manure – from Tuesday night to Wednesday, according to Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, which condemned the move as “low-class” and inhumane.

Pyongyang has defended the move, saying the “sincere gifts” were retaliation for balloons full of propaganda against Kim Jong-un’s rule sent northwards by activists in the South.

From tomorrow, “north winds are forecasted, so the release of balloons carrying waste from the North to the South is expected”, an official from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

“We are closely monitoring the movements of the North Korean military and if such balloons are launched, an announcement will be made to the media,” the official said, advising the public to refrain from touching the balloons if spotted and to report them to authorities.

The announcement by the JCS came a day after Pyongyang fired a salvo of short-range ballistic missiles.

North Korea also attempted to jam GPS signals for a third consecutive day this morning but it did not hinder any military operations in the South, Seoul’s military said.

Seoul’s unification ministry condemned Pyongyang’s latest provocations, calling them “irrational and nonsensical”.

The moves “clearly reveal the true nature and level of the North Korean regime to the world”, it said.

Seoul “will take all measures that North Korea will find difficult to bear” if Pyongyang does not cease such activities, the ministry said.

We “sternly warn that all responsibility for any subsequent situations will lie entirely with North Korea”, it said.

The North attempted to put a second spy satellite into orbit on Monday but it ended in failure.

That attempt came just hours after South Korea, Japan and China – Pyongyang’s most important ally – held a rare trilateral summit, where they called for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.

South Korean activists have long sent balloons filled with anti-Pyongyang propaganda, cash, rice, and USBs containing K-dramas northwards, a move that has always infuriated North Korea.

In 2018, during a period of improved inter-Korean relations, the leaders of the two Koreas agreed to “completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air and sea”, including the distribution of leaflets.

The South Korean parliament passed a law in 2020 criminalising the act of sending leaflets to the North.

But activists in the South did not stop and that same year Pyongyang, blaming the anti-North leaflets, unilaterally cut off all official military and political communication links to the South and blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border.

Last year, South Korea’s Constitutional Court struck down the 2020 law that criminalised the sending of anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets to the North, calling it an undue limitation on free speech.

Mr Kim’s powerful sister mocked Seoul for complaining over the trash-filled balloons this week, saying North Koreans were simply exercising their freedom of expression – a rationale Seoul has given in the past for activists’ actions.

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