The Koreas | Security | East Asia

After Rapidly Rising Inter-Korean Tensions, North Korean Leader ‘Suspends’ Plans for Military Action

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Ankit Panda
After Rapidly Rising Inter-Korean Tensions, North Korean Leader ‘Suspends’ Plans for Military Action
Credit: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office

North Korean state media announced on Wednesday that leader Kim Jong Un had decided to suspend plans for “military action” against South Korea. According to the Korean Central News Agency, Kim took the decision during a video conference “preliminary” meeting of the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).

“The WPK Central Military Commission took stock of the prevailing situation and suspended the military action plans against the south brought for the fifth meeting of the Seventh Central Military Commission by the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army,” the Korean Central News Agency said.

North Korean state media added that the officials at the meeting reviewed plans “for further bolstering the war deterrent of the country.”

The suspension was followed by reports from South Korea that North Korea had started dismantling propaganda loudspeakers it had started installing along the inter-Korean border in contravention of the April 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, agreed between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a major summit that month.

The latest decision by Kim represents a dramatic and unexpected move to lower tensions after two weeks of sharply deteriorating inter-Korean ties. Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, a senior official of the Workers’ Party in her own right, was primarily the face of the North Korean regime’s messaging against South Korea in recent weeks.

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Following a missive from Kim Yo Jong criticizing South Korea for allowing civic groups to launch leaflets across the inter-Korean border, North Korea moved to detonate high explosives at the inter-Korean liaison office in the border town of Kaesong. The facility, on the North Korean side of the DMZ, was a symbol of inter-Korean cooperation; the explosion severely damaged the two main buildings at the site.

Kim Jong Un’s sudden “suspension” of plans for military action appears to put a pause to plans supposedly put in place by his sister in earlier statements. The decision may be designed to allow for a temporary de-escalation of tensions, potentially with the intention of winning leverage in a calculated way to approach South Korea once again.

Earlier, North Korean state media noted that military plans that were being prepared required the authorization of the powerful Central Military Commission to proceed. In 2017, at the height of tensions between the United States and North Korea, Kim Jong Un similarly reviewed plans for a ballistic missile launch into the waters around the U.S. territory of Guam. The launch was not authorized in the end, but the threat was likely designed as a message to the United States of Pyongyang’s resolve.