Wind shift raises concerns over North Korean trash balloon launches


 South Korea, June 25: South Korea is monitoring an expected change in the wind direction on Monday that could allow North Korea to send more trash-carrying balloons across their heavily armed border, in their latest bout of tit-for-tat psychological warfare.

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a major defence deal that observers worry could embolden Kim to direct more provocations at South Korea.

That could include the launching of more huge balloons carrying rubbish toward South Korea in response to a South Korean civilian group's recent floating of balloons with anti-North Korean propaganda into the North.

South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesperson Lee Sung Joon told reporters Monday that the military is closely monitoring North Korean moves because northerly or north-westerly winds, favourable for North Korean balloon launches, were forecast on Monday.

Starting in late May, North Korea launched a series of balloons that dropped manure, cigarette butts, scraps of cloth, waste batteries and vinyl in various parts of South Korea. No highly dangerous materials were found. North Korea said its balloon campaign was a tit-for-tat action against South Korean activists who flew political leaflets critical of its leadership across the border.

Kim's influential sister, Kim Yo Jong, threatened Friday to retaliate after a South Korean group said it sent 20 balloons carrying 300,000 propaganda leaflets, 5,000 USB sticks with South Korean pop songs and TV dramas, and U.S. one-dollar bills across the border the previous night.

"When you do something, you were clearly warned not to do, it's only natural that you will find yourself dealing with something you didn't have to," Kim Yo Jong said, without saying whether North Korea would launch balloons again.

The South Korean military didn't say how it would respond if North Korea conducts a new round of balloon launches.

In reaction to North Korea's earlier balloon campaign, South Korea's military on June 9 redeployed gigantic loudspeakers along the border for the first time in six years and resumed anti-North Korean propaganda broadcasts. The broadcasts reportedly included hits by K-pop sensation BTS such as "Butter" and "Dynamite," weather forecasts and news on Samsung, the biggest South Korean company, as well as criticism of North Korea's missile program and its crackdown on foreign videos. (AP)

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