North Korea launches balloons of garbage and manure over the South

Yeseoul, South Korea — North Korea launched hundreds of balloons carrying garbage and manure toward South Korea in one of its strangest provocations against its rival in years, prompting the South’s military to mobilize chemical and explosive response teams. to recover objects and debris in different parts. from the country.

The balloon campaign came as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged his military scientists to move on from a failed satellite launch and continue developing space reconnaissance capabilities, which he described as crucial to countering U.S. and South Korean military activities. , state media said on Wednesday.

In his first public comments on the launch failure, Kim also warned of unspecified “overwhelming actions” against South Korea over an exercise involving 20 fighter jets near the inter-Korean border hours before North Korea’s failed launch on Monday. In a speech on Tuesday, Kim described South Korea’s response as a “hysterical attack formation flight and mock attack” and a “direct military challenge” toward North Korea, South Korea’s Central News Agency said on Wednesday. Korea, North official.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea has also been launching large amounts of garbage-laden balloons toward the South since Tuesday night in retaliation against South Korean activists for sending anti-North Korea propaganda leaflets through border.

The South Korean military said that as of Wednesday afternoon, some 260 North Korean balloons had been found in various parts of the country and were being recovered by military rapid response and explosives clearance teams. The military said the balloons brought various types of garbage and manure, but so far no human excrement had been found. He advised civilians not to touch North Korean objects and to report them to the military or police after discovering them.

In a statement issued over the weekend, North Korean Vice Defense Minister Kim Kang Il said the North was planning to scatter “piles of waste paper and garbage” over border areas and other parts of South Korea, which would described as “an eye for an eye.” tat” action against leaflets by South Korean activists.

Later on Wednesday, Kim Yo Jong, the North Korean leader’s powerful sister, took to state media to ridicule a South Korean military statement demanding the North stop its “inhuman and vulgar activity.” She said the North was simply exercising its freedom of speech, which the Seoul government has pointed to as a reason for her inability to stop anti-North Korean activists from sending leaflets across the border.

“Once you experience how unpleasant and exhausting it feels to pick up dirty trash, you’ll realize that you shouldn’t talk so easily about freedom of speech when it comes to (handing out leaflets) in border areas,” he said. “We will make it clear that we will respond with tens of times more dirt to whatever (the South Koreans) spray at us in the future.”

Photographs released by the South Korean military showed garbage strewn across roads and paths in different parts of the country. In the capital, Seoul, military officials found what appeared to be a stopwatch that was probably designed to explode garbage bags in the air. In the central province of South Chungcheong, two huge balloons carrying an unpopped plastic bag filled with dirt-like substances were seen on a road.

There were no immediate reports of damage caused by the balloons. Similar North Korean balloon activities damaged cars and other property in 2016.

Kim Jong Un’s comments about the satellite came from a speech at North Korea’s Academy of Defense Sciences, which he visited a day after a rocket carrying what would have been his country’s second military reconnaissance satellite exploded. shortly after takeoff. North Korea’s Aerospace Technology Administration said the explosion was possibly related to the reliability of a newly developed rocket engine that runs on petroleum and uses liquid oxygen as an oxidizer.

Animosities between the Koreas are at their worst level in years as the pace of Kim’s weapons demonstrations and South Korea’s combined military exercises with the United States and Japan have intensified since 2022.

The failed satellite launch was a setback to Kim’s plan to launch three more military spy satellites in 2024 after North Korea’s first military reconnaissance satellite was launched into orbit last November. The November launch came after two failed attempts.

Monday’s launch drew criticism from South Korea, Japan and the United States because the United Nations prohibits North Korea from carrying out such rocket launches, viewing them as covers for testing long-range missile technology.

North Korea has steadfastly maintained that it has the right to launch satellites and test missiles in the face of what it perceives as U.S.-led military threats. Kim has described spy satellites as crucial to monitoring U.S. and South Korean military activities and increasing the threat posed by their nuclear-capable missiles.

“Although we did not achieve the results we hoped to achieve in the recent reconnaissance satellite launch, we should never feel scared or discouraged, but make even greater efforts,” Kim said. “It is natural that one learns more and makes greater progress after experiencing failure.”

North Korea has not commented on when it would be ready to try again to launch a satellite, which some experts say could take months.

State media’s mention of a liquid oxygen-oil rocket engine suggests North Korea is trying to develop a more powerful space launch vehicle that can handle larger payloads, according to some South Korean experts.

Previous North Korean space rockets are believed to have used asymmetric dimethylhydrazine as fuel and dinitrogen tetroxide as an oxidizer. The country’s rapid transition in space rocket design possibly indicates external technological help, which would likely come from Russia, said Chang Young-keun, a missile expert at South Korea’s Research Institute for National Strategy.

Kim has been raising the visibility of his ties with Russia in recent months, highlighted by a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in September, as they align over their separate clashes with Washington. Kim’s meeting with Putin was held at a spaceport in the Russian Far East and came after North Korea’s consecutive failures in its attempts to launch its first spy satellite. Putin later told Russian journalists that Moscow was willing to help the North build satellites.

The United States and South Korea have also accused North Korea of ​​providing Russia with artillery shells, missiles and other military equipment to help prolong its fighting in Ukraine.

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