North Korea appears to be softening its focus on neighboring South Korea after weeks of mounting tensions, including the dramatic demolition of a dynamite liaison office.
The secret communist country decided to “postpone plans for military action against South Korea,” state media outlet Rodong Sinmun reported on its website on Wednesday. The announcement came after a virtual meeting of the military committee called by leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday, where they “evaluated the current situation.”
“They reviewed and discussed key military policy issues at the meeting … as well as political alternatives to further strengthen the deterrents against war,” according to the state media outlet.
The report gave no explanation for the change of heart or further details on what the political alternatives might be.
According to a spokesperson for the South Korean Unification Ministry, the virtual conference was “very unusual.”
“We believe this is the first time that President Kim Jong Un has convened a virtual meeting. In reality, the preliminary meeting of the Central Military Committee is also very unusual and such a meeting has never been reported in the past, “Unification Ministry spokesman Yeo Sang Ki said in a briefing on Wednesday.
Tensions increased earlier this month after North Korea lashed out at deserters in the south and North Koreans living there for propaganda pamphlets and balloons sent north.
Earlier this month, Kim’s sister and trusted assistant Kim Yo Jong, who appears to have gained prominence in recent months, threatened unspecified military action against the South. The two countries are still technically at war when their 1950-53 conflict ended without a peace treaty.
On Saturday, an “enraged” North Korea said it was preparing to dump its own “punishment flyers” in the South. Many of the brochures were being prepared by college students, state news outlet KCNA reported, and would feature the face of South Korean President Moon Jae-in stained with cigarette butts, an insult that compares it to trash.
But since then, there have been more signs of a dip in the north. South Korea’s Unification Ministry confirmed reports that several official North Korean propaganda websites had removed some articles critical of the South, although the spokesperson said it was not clear why.
North Korea’s apparent change in position comes after it cut direct lines of communication with the South and theatrically demolished an inter-Korean liaison office last week that was created in 2018 to foster better ties between the two countries.
Last week, South Korea’s Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, who oversees engagement with the North, resigned and took responsibility for worsening ties.
Earlier this month, the erratic communist nation also said it was pulling away from its relationship with the United States, claiming that there had been no real improvement in ties since the historic handshake between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore ago two years.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Stella Kim contributed