North Korea Flies Trash Balloons over South

04:42 May 29, 2024

North Korea Flies Trash Balloons over South

North Korea has flown hundreds of balloons carrying trash and manure toward South Korea. The strange action led the South’s military to organize chemical and explosive response teams to recover objects in different parts of the country.

The balloons came as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged his military scientists Monday to overcome a failed spy satellite launch. He said space-spying technology is important to counter U.S. and South Korean military activities, state media said Wednesday.

Kim also warned of “overwhelming actions” against South Korea over a recent military exercise near the Korean border. The military exercise took place hours before North Korea’s failed launch on Monday. In a speech Tuesday, Kim called the South Korean exercise a “direct military challenge” toward North Korea, North Korean state media said Wednesday.

South Korea’s top military leaders said North Korea has been flying large numbers of trash-carrying balloons toward the South since Tuesday night.

The South’s military said about 260 North Korean balloons were found in different parts of the country as of Wednesday afternoon. They were being recovered by the military and explosive clearance teams. The military said the balloons only held trash and manure. So far, the military has found no human waste. It's told civilians not to touch any objects from the balloons and to report to the military or police after finding them.

South Korean officials said the balloons are in response to South Korean activists flying anti-North Korean propaganda papers across the border.

Kim Kang II is the North Korean Vice Defense Minister. He said in a statement the North was planning to spread “wastepaper and filth” over border areas and other parts of South Korea. He called the action a direct reaction to the spread of anti-North Korean messages by South Korean activists.

Kim Yo Jong is the North Korean leader’s powerful sister. On Wednesday, she said on state media the North was simply exercising its freedom of expression by sending the balloons. The Seoul government has cited freedom of expression as a reason for its inability to stop anti-North Korean activists from flying propaganda across the border.

Images released by the South Korean military showed trash spread across highways and roads in different parts of the country. In Seoul, military officials found what appeared to be a timer that was likely meant to break up the bags of trash in the air.

There were no immediate reports of damage caused by the balloons. Similar North Korean balloon activities damaged cars and other property in 2016.

Kim Jong Un’s comments about the satellite came during a speech at the North’s Academy of Defense Sciences. He visited the academy a day after a rocket carrying what would have been his country’s second military spy satellite exploded shortly after launch.

Monday’s launch drew criticism from South Korea, Japan and the United States. The United Nations bans North Korea from carrying out any such rocket launches. The U.N. considers such actions as covers for testing long-range missile technology.

North Korea has not commented on when it would be ready to attempt a satellite launch again. Some experts say it could take several months.

I’m Dan Novak.

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