SEOUL • North Korea said yesterday it has readied thousands of balloons and millions of leaflets in preparation for “retaliatory punishment” against South Korea.
The detail, in a state media report, came a day after the North said it was preparing to begin an anti-South leaflet campaign following a series of vitriolic condemnations of Seoul because of anti-North leaflets floated over the border.
Defectors in the South send such leaflets which criticise the North’s leader Kim Jong Un over human rights abuses and his nuclear goals. The messages are usually attached to balloons or floated in bottles.
Analysts say Pyongyang has been conducting a series of staged provocations aimed at forcing concessions from Seoul and Washington.
“The preparations for the largest-ever distribution of leaflets against the enemy are almost complete,” a report by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
“Publishing and printing institutions at all levels in the capital city have turned out 12 million leaflets of all kinds reflective of the wrath and hatred of the people from all walks of life,” it added.
KCNA also said that more than “3,000 balloons of various types capable of scattering leaflets deep inside South Korea have been prepared”, along with other means of distribution.
Inter-Korean relations have been frozen for months, following the collapse of a summit in Hanoi between Mr Kim and US President Donald Trump early last year.
That meeting foundered on what the North would be willing to give up in exchange for a loosening of sanctions.
The nuclear-armed and impoverished North is subject to multiple United Nations Security Council sanctions over its banned weapons programmes.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in initially brokered a dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington, but the North now blames him for not persuading the United States to relax sanctions.
“South Korea has to face the music. Only when it experiences how painful and how irritating it is to dispose of leaflets and waste, will it shake off its bad habit,” KCNA said.
“The time for retaliatory punishment is drawing near.”
As part of what analysts saw as staged provocations, Pyongyang last Tuesday blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border, triggering broad international condemnation.
The North’s actions appear to be carefully calibrated, with Pyongyang drawing out the process by issuing multiple incremental warnings from different official sources – leadership, government departments and the military – ahead of each step it takes.