(Seoul) South Korea relaunched a loudspeaker propaganda campaign aimed at the North on Sunday and Pyongyang again sent new balloons of garbage.

On Sunday evening, the South Korean military announced that the North had “sent balloons again,” suspected of “transporting garbage to the South,” advising people not to touch them and report them to authorities.

In the northwest province of Gyeonggi, officials sent a text alert to residents Sunday evening to warn them of the arrival of new balloons.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff previously said Sunday that “the South Korean military conducted a loudspeaker broadcast this afternoon,” announced earlier by the presidency.

The continuation of this type of broadcast “depends entirely on the actions of North Korea,” the general staff clarified. According to the presidency, these are “corresponding measures” after Pyongyang sent more than 300 balloons filled with rubbish on Saturday, after nearly a thousand already launched at the end of May and beginning of June.

Although they “may be difficult for the regime” of Kim Jong-un to bear, these measures “will convey messages of light and hope to the North Korean military and citizens,” according to Seoul. “The responsibility for the escalation of tension between the two Koreas would fall squarely on the North.”

According to the South Korean military, analysis of the contents of the balloons that arrived on Saturday “shows that there are no substances hazardous to safety” and that they contained plastic and used paper.

“North Korea is carrying out another low-level provocation with garbage balloons against our civilian areas,” Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon wrote on Facebook.

While the balloon launches do not violate UN sanctions, unlike the ballistic missile tests, relations between the two Koreas are at one of their lowest levels in years. Analysts warn that the escalation could lead to full-blown military clashes.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Tuesday suspended the entirety of a detente military agreement concluded in 2018 with North Korea, after Pyongyang sent nearly a thousand balloons weighted with bags full of trash, ranging from cigarette butts to animal feces.  

After announcing an end to it on June 2, North Korea started again on Saturday, in response to South Korean activists sending north this week new balloons with K-pop, dollar bills and propaganda hostile to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The total suspension of the 2018 agreement allows Seoul to resume live-fire exercises and relaunch propaganda campaigns against the North’s regime via loudspeakers along the border.  

The South says it carries out this type of propaganda, which dates back to the Korean War (1950-53), in retaliation for what it sees as continued North Korean provocations. He last used it in 2016, after Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test.  

During these campaigns, Seoul uses huge megaphones to broadcast K-pop or anti-regime propaganda in areas close to the demilitarized zone separating the two countries, which technically remain at war.  

These broadcasts of messages exasperate Pyongyang, which has already threatened to target the speakers with its artillery if they were not turned off.

South Korea’s opposition Democratic Party (DP) criticized the Seoul government for not doing more against ballooning by South Korean activists, accusing them on Sunday of using “freedom of expression.” as a means of compromising the security of our people.”

The PD also criticized the resumption of loudspeaker propaganda, because “the government’s initiative poses a risk of escalation towards a regional war,” according to a spokesperson.

“It is very possible that the resumption of loudspeaker messages will lead to armed conflict” and that “North Korea will resume its firing in the Yellow Sea or that it will shoot at the balloons if the South sends them again”, Cheong Seong-chang, director of strategy for the Korean Peninsula at the Sejong Institute, told AFP.

North Korea also reportedly tried to jam GPS signals for several days at the end of May, without apparently succeeding in hindering any South Korean military activity.

“It is likely that this type of provocation will appear in a much stronger form also in the West Sea” (Yellow Sea), Cheong Seong-chang added.