Seoul readying leaflets

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Seoul readying leaflets

South Korea slammed North Korea on Wednesday for its latest threats against Seoul and Washington, and prepared to send official anti-North propaganda leaflets across the border for the first time in more than a decade.

On Tuesday, North Korea threatened a “pre-emptive strike” against any attempt to threaten Pyongyang, denouncing a joint military drill that South Korea and Washington will kick off in early March - the largest ever following the North’s recent nuclear and long-range missile tests.

A source at the Ministry of National Defense said Wednesday that the South Korean military was preparing to send anti-North leaflets to North Korea and continue propaganda broadcasts at the border in retaliation for the Kim Jong-un regime’s off-color slander of President Park Geun-hye and her administration.

“[The South Korean military] is preparing methods [leaflets] conveying information from the outside world for North Koreans following the resumed anti-North broadcasts,” the source said.

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Han Min-koo told lawmakers that the military was capable of sending leaflets into North Korea despite the presence of northeasterly winds, a usual phenomenon on the Korean Peninsula in winter.

Psychological operations using loudspeakers and leaflets carried over the border by balloons are considered critical threats to the isolated state, which fears outside information about its leadership reaching its people.

South Korea resumed its loudspeaker broadcasts, which blast bouncy K-pop songs and announcements critical of the North Korean regime, to punish Pyongyang for its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6. The North started its own broadcasts across the border to the South and dispatched balloons with propaganda leaflets denouncing President Park and even included cigarette butts and used toilet paper.

The South Korean government has not officially sent anti-North leaflets across the border since 2004, when the two Koreas agreed to end mutual slander and sabotage. But private South Korean civic groups regularly send balloons filled with messages criticizing the North’s leaders, as well as CDs, U.S. dollars and USB drives with video clips.

On Tuesday, North Korea identified targets it would strike, starting with the Blue House in Seoul, U.S. military bases in Asia and finally the U.S. mainland.

“From this moment, all the powerful strategic and tactical strike means of our revolutionary armed forces will go into pre-emptive and just operations to beat back enemy forces to the last man if there is the slightest sign of their special operation forces and equipment moving to carry out the so-called “beheading operation” and “high-density strike,” the Supreme Command of the North’s Korean People’s Army said in a statement reported by the North’s state media Tuesday night.

The North commonly lashes out against the two allies’ annual military drill as practices for an invasion and war.

This year, South Korea and the United Sates are planning the largest-ever joint drills, which will involve 15,000 American troops and powerful U.S. military capabilities, including a combat aviation brigade, nuclear-powered submarine group and aerial refueling aircraft.

In response to the North’s threat, the Joint Chiefs of Staff released a statement Wednesday strongly urging North Korea to stop provocations, saying any direct attack would expedite the collapse of its dictatorship.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, KIM SO-HEE [kim.sohee0905@joongang.co.kr]

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