North Korea Regime Silent After Border Threats, South Detects No Activity

Friday marked the second consecutive day with no official comment from the North Korean regime, as the world watches for signs Pyongyang may deliver on its threat to redeploy forces to demilitarized areas.

Kim Jong Un's regime has not issued an official statement since Wednesday, the Yonhap news agency reported, when his sister and senior aide Kim Yo Jong branded South Korean President Moon Jae-in "disgusting" and "impudent" for failing to stop propaganda balloons being floated into the North by defectors from the South.

Pyongyang-watchers are waiting to see if the silence portends a fresh escalation following the destruction of the inter-Korean liaison office in the Northern city of Kaesong on Tuesday. Pyongyang has warned that its military may re-enter border areas demilitarized as part of a 2018 inter-Korean agreement, and turn the zones into a "fortress."

This would be another blow to stability on the peninsula, where the North is already frustrated by the lack of progress in sanctions relief and denuclearization talks with the South and the U.S.

The world was hopeful of a lasting detente when Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington, D.C. all began to speak and meet with each other in 2018, but little beyond photo opportunities has been achieved since, despite several high-profile meetings.

Meanwhile, the North has reverted to its characteristic diplomatic belligerence and regular weapon tests, though has so far maintained its moratorium on nuclear warhead and intercontinental ballistic missile tests. Still, with the U.S. presidential election approaching, Kim may be tempted to remind Washington that North Korea is still relevant.

The South Korean military said Friday there were no signs that the North was following through on its promise to reinforce border areas. The General Staff of the North's Korean People's Army had threatened to deploy forces to two inter-Korean economic zones, return to guard positions along the Demilitarized Zone border, and resume all exercises near the frontier.

A spokesperson for the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters that "no actions directly related to the General Staff spokesperson's warnings have been confirmed." The official added that the Southern military "is maintaining a monitoring and readiness posture, keeping close tabs round the clock."

The Southern defense ministry said earlier this week that the North would "pay the price" if it engages in any more provocative action. On Friday, North Korean soldiers were spotted at vacant guard posts in the DMZ, raising concerns that a wider redeployment was underway.

On Wednesday, Yonhap reported that one of Kim's planes had left Pyongyang for the east of the country, prompting speculation that he was traveling to attend an imminent weapon test.

North KOrea, South Korea, border, military, threat
A general view shows a South Korean guard post along the barbed-wire fence of the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea, on the South Korean island of Gyodong on June 18, 2020. ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images/Getty