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Min Chao Choy
Min Chao Choy is a data journalist for NK News and NK Pro, currently based in Los Angeles.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called off plans for an unspecified “military action” against South Korea due to be discussed at an upcoming military meeting, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Wednesday.
In a decision made during a preliminary meeting of the Seventh Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK) Central Military Commission (CMC), state media said Kim had “examined agenda items to be laid before the fifth meeting.”
“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 report said, adding that officials had also examined plans “for further bolstering the war deterrent of the country.”
In attendance at the video conference meeting was Ri Pyong Chol, vice-chairman of the CMC, and as other members of the commission, it added. State media did not carry any photos of the gathering.
The phrasing of the short statement leaves the parameters of the suspension vague, and it’s unclear if Kim had merely taken it off the agenda for the fifth meeting or if the military action plan itself is put on hold indefinitely.
The news follows weeks of escalating tensions between the two Koreas over Seoul’s failure to stop activists sending anti-regime leaflets into the North — tensions which have seen Pyongyang move to redeploy soldiers to previously demilitarized border areas as well as blow up an inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong.
North Korea has also touted plans for a retaliatory leaflet campaign against the South, with state media reporting Monday that 12 million propaganda flyers would soon be send into the South.
Tuesday’s decision, then, could represent an effort by North Korea to de-escalate these tensions, experts said, potentially in a bid to draw concessions from South Korea.
“North Korea is trying to maximize its leverage and flexibility by mixing calculated raising of tensions with calculated de-escalation,” said Mintaro Oba, a former U.S. State Department official working on North Korea. “What else is new?”
The North could also be working to buy time after raising tensions too quickly, said Christopher Green, a contributing analyst with NK News’s sister site NK Pro.
“A bit of rhetorical back ‘n forth creates time and space to review responses to previous steps,” he explained. “The exploding liaison office was the outlier here: it happened very soon after the threat to do it was issued. Usually, things take far longer.”
“The most interesting question is, I think, whether the North Koreans will allow the space that has just been manufactured to be used to convene some form of inter-Korean dialogue.”
Should the leader be moving to de-escalate tensions, it would not be the first time this year that he has played good cop to sister Kim Yo Jong’s bad cop.
In March, just days after a venomous missive by his sister condemned South Korea’s “foolish” leadership, Kim Jong Un sent a letter to Seoul offering friendship and condolences amid South Korea’s struggle against COVID-19, saying he would “quietly cheer” their efforts to overcome the virus.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called off plans for an unspecified "military action" against South Korea due to be discussed at an upcoming military meeting, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Wednesday.
In a decision made during a preliminary meeting of the Seventh Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK) Central Military Commission (CMC), state media said Kim had “examined agenda items to be laid before the fifth meeting."