North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has presided over a meeting of the ruling party's Central Military Commission and decided to suspend military action plans against South Korea, the official KCNA news agency reported on Wednesday. The video conference meeting on Tuesday also discussed documents outlining measures for "further bolstering the war deterrent of the country," KCNA reported.
The committee members "took stock of the prevailing situation" before deciding to suspend the military plans, the report said, without elaborating. Political tensions between the rival Koreas have been rising over Pyongyang's objections to plans by defector-led groups in the South to fly propaganda leaflets over to the North.
North Korea claims the moves violate an agreement between the two aimed at preventing military confrontation, and accused the defectors of insulting the dignity of North Korea's supreme leadership. In recent weeks the North blew up a joint liaison office on its side of the border, declared an end to dialogue with the South, and threatened military action.
Kim's sister, Kim Yo Jong, warned last week of retaliatory measures against South Korea that could involve the military, without elaborating. The General Staff of the Korean People's Army (KPA) later said it had been studying an "action plan" that included sending troops into joint tourism and economic zones, reoccupying border guard posts that had been abandoned under an inter-Korean pact, taking steps to "turn the front line into a fortress," and supporting plans for the North to send its own propaganda leaflets into the South.
North Korea's military was seen putting up loudspeakers near the demilitarised zone (DMZ), a military source told Reuters on Tuesday. Such systems were taken down after the two Koreas signed an accord in 2018 to cease "all hostile acts." A report by the North Korea-monitoring website 38 North on Tuesday said that anti-South Korea rhetoric from the North over the past week had left room for flexibility.
However, "even if North Korea avoids a serious escalation of tensions, it is still unlikely to pursue further diplomacy with (South Korean President Moon Jae-in's) administration anytime in the near future," the report said. It predicted that Pyongyang could soon turn to more heated criticism of the United States.
It was unclear if the fact that the meeting was conducted by video was aimed at ensuring social distancing. North Korea has taken stringent steps to prevent an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, and has said it has zero confirmed cases.