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North Korea launches new round of ‘rubbish balloons’ towards South Korea



North Korea has launched balloons filled with trash towards South Korea in response to leaflets being launched across the border by activists. The South Korean military reported that about 90 balloons carrying paper, plastic trash, and cigarette butts were found in Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi province. The military advised people to avoid touching objects suspected to be from North Korea and to report them to authorities. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the falling objects.

The North’s balloon launches are part of a series of provocative actions, including a failed spy satellite launch and short-range missile tests. South Korea dispatched teams to recover the debris from the North Korean balloons, which were found in various parts of the country. The balloons carried trash and manure, but no dangerous substances. Some balloons had timers suggesting they were designed to release the trash midair.

Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, confirmed that North Korea sent the balloons in response to South Korean leafleting campaigns. She hinted that balloons could become a standard response to leafleting in the future, with the North promising to scatter more rubbish than what is being sent to them. South Korea’s military has decided not to shoot down the balloons, as it may trigger retaliation from the North and cause damage.

North Korea is highly sensitive to any attempts to undermine Kim Jong Un’s control over the country. In the past, North Korea has responded aggressively to South Korean leafleting campaigns, even blowing up a liaison office in 2020. In 2014, North Korea and South Korea exchanged gunfire over propaganda balloons. North Korea has even made baseless claims that balloons from South Korea caused a COVID-19 outbreak in the country, suggesting blame on the South for worsening inter-Korean relations.

The recent balloon launches by North Korea have raised tensions between the two countries, with South Korea on high alert for further provocations. The South Korean military’s decision not to shoot down the balloons reflects a cautious approach to avoid escalation. The North’s use of balloons as a response to leafleting campaigns highlights the ongoing tensions between the two Koreas and the challenges of maintaining peace in the region.

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