North Korean military crosses border into South Korea for second time this month

The soldiers of Kim Jong-un's regime retreated after several warning shots were fired. The incident, the second in less than two weeks, coincides with a visit by Putin to Pyongyang 
Soldados surcoreanos hacen guardia en el Área de Seguridad Conjunta (JSA) en la Zona Desmilitarizada (DMZ) en la aldea fronteriza de Panmunjom en Paju, Corea del Sur - REUTERS/ JEON HEON-KYUN
South Korean soldiers stand guard at the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) at the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea - REUTERS/ JEON HEON-KYUN
  1. Putin visits North Korea for first time in 24 years 

South Korea has once again denounced a new incursion by North Korean soldiers on its land border, the second since 11 June. On this occasion, according to the South Korean authorities, between 20 and 30 soldiers from the Pyongyang regime briefly crossed the military demarcation line that divides the countries while carrying out unspecified construction work on the northern side of the border. 

In order to push back the North Korean military, the South Korean Army fired several warning shots, as it did earlier in the month. However, the South Korean authorities do not believe that their northern neighbours have intentionally invaded the border. 

Los marines surcoreanos abandonan la terminal costera de pasajeros de Incheon el 5 de enero de 2024 - AFP/ YONHAP
South Korean Marines leave the Incheon coastal passenger terminal on January 5, 2024 - AFP/ YONHAP

The South Korean military has long noted an increase in construction activities by the neighbouring nation along its border to install anti-tank barriers, reinforce roads and plant landmines.   

Seoul suspects that North Korea will expand its activities, which began in April, with the aim of preventing North Korean civilians or soldiers from defecting to the south as Pyongyang seeks to tighten its control over its territory and citizens.   

These efforts have continued uninterrupted despite several mine explosions that killed or injured an unspecified number of North Korean soldiers, Seoul claims.  

El líder de Corea del Norte, Kim Jong Un, y su hija posando con científicos que contribuyeron al lanzamiento de un satélite de reconocimiento, en la Dirección Nacional de Tecnología Aeroespacial en Pyongyang - AFP/ KCNA VIA KNS 
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter pose with scientists who helped launch a reconnaissance satellite at the National Aerospace Technology Directorate in Pyongyang - AFP/ KCNA VIA KNS 

These border incidents come on the heels of a peculiar period of psychological warfare between the two countries. It all started after North Korea launched balloons filled with rubbish - including human and animal excrement - towards its southern neighbour.   

In response, the South Koreans set up giant loudspeakers across their border for the first time in six years to resume anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts. According to AP, the broadcasts included K-pop music hits by BTS, weather forecasts and news about Samsung, South Korea's largest company. Criticism of North Korea's missile programme was also broadcast. 

Kim Jong-un's regime considers such broadcasts, as well as the distribution of civilian leaflets, to be a serious provocation, as the North Korean authorities prohibit access to foreign news for most of its population.  

The two Koreas remain technically at war after the conflict that began in 1950 ended three years later with an armistice - not a peace agreement - that established a demilitarised zone with a Military Demarcation Line dividing the countries. 

Putin visits North Korea for first time in 24 years 

Amid rising tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang, Russian President Vladimir Putin is travelling to North Korea for the first time in 24 years to strengthen bilateral relations

Before his trip, Putin thanked North Korea for its "strong support" during the war in Ukraine. In this regard, it should be noted that both the United States and South Korea have accused Pyongyang of supplying Moscow with artillery and other military equipment, most likely in exchange for food, aid and military technology. 

El presidente ruso Vladimir Putin  y al líder norcoreano Kim Jong Un  durante su reunión en el cosmódromo de Vostochny en la región de Amur el 13 de septiembre de 2023 - AFP/VLADIMIR SMIRNOV
Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur region on September 13, 2023 - AFP/VLADIMIR SMIRNOV

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller recently reiterated these accusations, claiming that North Korea has reportedly supplied "dozens of ballistic missiles and more than 11,000 containers of ammunition to Russia" for use in Ukraine. Both Moscow and Pyongyang deny this.   

During his visit to North Korea, Putin and Kim Jong-Un are expected to sign a partnership agreement on security issues. Moreover, as the Russian leader noted, the two nations will develop "alternative trade mechanisms and mutual agreements that are not controlled by the West, jointly resisting illegitimate unilateral restrictions". 

Desfile militar para conmemorar un aniversario clave de la Guerra de Corea en la plaza Kim Il Sung de Pyongyang - AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS
Military parade to mark a key anniversary of the Korean War at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang - AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS

"And at the same time we will build an equal and indivisible security architecture in Eurasia," added Putin, who will also travel to Vietnam after his visit to Pyongyang.  

He is accompanied by a delegation including Russian Defence Minister Andrei Belousov, Russian diplomatic chief Sergei Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak.