Military tensions rise after North Korea vows to send troops to border

South Korean soldiers ride on the back of a military vehicle in the border city of Paju on June 17, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 18 June 2020

Military tensions rise after North Korea vows to send troops to border

  • South condemns ‘senseless’ detonation of liaison office

SEOUL: Military tensions between North and South Korea rose Wednesday as the two sides engaged in a war of words over Pyongyang’s detonation of an inter-Korean liaison office a day earlier.

South Korea’s presidential office, the Blue House, condemned the “senseless and rude” demolition of the building.

“It is a senseless act to disparage (the South Korean leadership) in a very rude tone without understanding its purpose at all,” Yoon Do-han, senior presidential secretary of public communications, told reporters on Wednesday.

He referred to President Moon Jae-in’s recent speech to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the June 15 Inter-Korean Joint Declaration, adopted at the end of the historic first cross-border summit in 2000 between the former leaders of the two Koreas.

The statement was issued after an emergency meeting of the presidential National Security Council that was led by the National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong.

Hours earlier Kim Yo-jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, launched a verbal assault on Moon, saying the South Korean head of state had “put his neck into the noose of pro-US flunkeyism.”

She also claimed Moon had “begged” to send a special envoy to the North, but that the offer was immediately rejected.

In a separate comment carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, the military vowed to send troops into two symbols of past Korean economic cooperation: Gaeseong Industrial Complex and Mt. Geumgang tourist zone, both of which have been shut for years in the wake of continued threats from the North, including nuclear tests.

The South-North military agreement to ease tensions is also to be nullified, it said, if the South failed to take steps to stop leaflet campaigns.  

The South’s military hit back, warning that the North would “pay the price” if it took any military action.

“If the North actually makes such a move, it will certainly pay the price for it,” Lt. Gen. Jeon Dong-jin, director of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a briefing on Wednesday.

The three-star general said his military was monitoring the North’s moves around-the-clock while maintaining a strong defense posture.

Pundits believe the North is under pressure due to its economic problems, mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has hampered trade with China.

“One thing is certain. North Korea faces serious economic difficulties now as the border with China has been shut down following the spread of the COVID-19 earlier this year,” Park Won-kon, a professor of international relations at Handong University in Pohang, said. “So the North would be trying its best to seek internal solidarity amid mounting economic hardship by doing hostile acts against the South.”

Prof. Kim Dong-yub, an analyst from Seoul’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies, said he was concerned that the North would now take military actions “as planned,” including a naval skirmish in the waters off the west coast.

“As the North’s military has made a public warning to break off the military tension-reducing deal, they will take any action, for sure,” the professor said, adding that military conflicts near the sea border were “most worrying.”

Namibia rejects German genocide reparations offer

Updated 3 min 3 sec ago

Namibia rejects German genocide reparations offer

WINDHOEK: Namibia’s President Hage Geingob on Tuesday said reparations offered by Germany for mass killings in its then colony at the start of the twentieth century were “not acceptable” and needed to be “revised.”
German occupiers in Namibia killed tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama people in 1904-1908 massacres, which historians have called the first genocide of the 20th century.
In 2015, the two countries started negotiating an agreement that would combine an official apology by Germany as well as development aid.
Geingob on Tuesday was briefed by his government’s special envoy Zed Ngavirue on the status of negotiations.
The briefing took place ahead of a final round of talks for which a date has yet to be set.
“The current offer for reparations made by the German government remains an outstanding issue and is not acceptable to the Namibian government,” Geingob said in a statement after the briefing, adding that Ngavirue had been asked to “continue with negotiations for a revised offer.”
No details were provided on the offer.
The president also noted that Germany had declined to accept the term “reparations,” as that word was also avoided during the country’s negotiations with Israel after the Holocaust.
Ngavirue rejected Germany’s reference to reparations as “healing the wounds” and said the terminology would be subject to further debate, according to the statement.
Berlin was not immediately available for comment on the claims.
Germany has acknowledged that atrocities occurred at the hands of its colonial authorities and some officials have even recognized it as a genocide.
But the country has repeatedly refused to pay direct reparations, citing millions of euros in development aid to the Namibian government.
Namibia was called German South West Africa during Germany’s 1884-1915 rule, and then passed under South African rule for 75 years, finally gaining independence in 1990.
Tensions boiled over in 1904 when the Herero rose up, followed by the Nama, in an insurrection crushed by German imperial troops.
In the Battle of Waterberg in August 1904, around 80,000 Herero fled including women and children.
German troops went after them across what is now known as the Kalahari Desert. Only 15,000 Herero survived.
The German government has so far refused to apologize for the killings.