South Korea summons Russian envoy

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the country’s new defense pact with North Korea on Friday, June 21, 2024, as border tensions continued to rise with vague threats and brief, seemingly accidental incursions by North Korean troops.

Earlier Friday, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a vague threat of retaliation after South Korean activists flew balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets across the border. South Korea’s military said it had fired warning shots the previous day to repel North Korean soldiers who briefly crossed the rivals’ land border for the third time this month.

That came two days after Moscow and Pyongyang reached a pact vowing mutual defense assistance if either is attacked and a day after Seoul responded by saying it would consider providing arms to Ukraine to fight Russia’s invasion.

South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Hong Kyun summoned Russian Ambassador Georgy Zinoviev to protest the deal between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un and called for Moscow to immediately halt its alleged military cooperation with Pyongyang.

Kim, the South Korean diplomat, stressed that any cooperation that directly or indirectly helps the North build up its military capabilities would violate UN Security Council resolutions and pose a threat to the South’s security, and warned of consequences for Seoul’s relations with Moscow.

Zinoviev told Korean officials that any attempts to “threaten or blackmail” Russia were unacceptable and that his country’s agreement with North Korea wasn’t aimed at specific third countries, Russia’s embassy wrote on its X account. The South Korean ministry said Zinoviev promised to convey Seoul’s concerns to his superiors in Moscow.

Leafletting campaigns by South Korean civilian activists in recent weeks have prompted a resumption of Cold War-style psychological warfare along the inter-Korean border.

The South Korean civilian activists, led by North Korean defector Park Sang-hak, said it sent 20 balloons carrying 300,000 propaganda leaflets, 5,000 USB sticks with South Korean pop songs and TV dramas, and 3,000 US dollar bills from the South Korean border town of Paju on Thursday night.

Pyongyang resents such material and fears it could demoralize front-line troops and residents and eventually weaken Kim Jong Un’s grip on power, analysts say. / AP

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