Yoon says S. Korea should consider suspending 2018 tension reduction deal

January 4, 2023
President Yoon Suk Yeol (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol ordered aides to consider suspending a 2018 inter-Korean military tension reduction agreement if North Korea violates the South’s territory again, an official said Wednesday.

Yoon’s remark came after five North Korean drones infiltrated South Korean airspace last week, raising serious questions about South Korea’s readiness posture.

On Wednesday, Yoon was briefed by the presidential National Security Office, the defense ministry, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Agency for Defense Development on the country’s anti-drone preparations.

“President Yoon Suk Yeol instructed the National Security Office to consider suspending the Sept. 19 military agreement in the event North Korea carries out another provocation violating our territory,” senior presidential secretary for press affairs Kim Eun-hye told reporters.

Yoon also instructed Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup to establish a joint drone unit tasked with carrying out multiple missions, including surveillance and reconnaissance operations, build a system enabling the mass production of small, hard-to-detect drones within the year and push to develop stealth drones before the end of the year, Kim said.

Yoon’s instructions were a call for the South Korean armed forces to build an “overwhelming response capability that goes beyond a proportionate response to North Korea’s provocations,” Kim explained.

Yoon especially emphasized the importance of a firm security readiness posture, while seeking to fulfill his role and responsibility as commander-in-chief, protecting the lives and safety of the people, she said.

The Sept. 19 agreement, which was signed after a 2018 summit between then President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, calls for halting all hostile military activity between the Koreas.

It also includes plans to turn the Demilitarized Zone into a peace zone, devise military guarantees for the activation of cross-border exchanges and establish military confidence-building measures.

The presidential office said North Korea has “explicitly” violated the agreement 17 times, including 15 times starting in October.