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In response to North Korea’s redeployment of weapons in the Joint Security Area (JSA) of Panmunjom, South Korean troops have been authorized to carry firearms, as announced by the United Nations Command (UNC).

This move reverses the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement under which both Koreas had withdrawn firearms from the JSA. The change in policy by the UNC follows North Korea’s actions of arming its military personnel in the area since late November, a decision taken after South Korea suspended part of the military tension reduction deal and resumed border surveillance in response to North Korea’s spy satellite launch on November 21.

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Colonel Isaac Taylor, a spokesperson for the UNC, said, “Given the KPA’s current armed security posture, the UNC has authorized trained and qualified members of the guard forces on the UNC side of the JSA to re-arm to protect both civilian and military personnel.” Taylor also noted that while the action is precautionary, the UNC has informed both the Republic of Korea (ROK) government and the Korean People’s Army (KPA) of its preference for a disarmed JSA, which they believe is safer and more peaceful for the Korean Peninsula.

Despite these recent developments, the UNC reaffirmed its commitment to overseeing the Korean War armistice agreement. Taylor said, “The United Nations Command has reassured Korean People’s Army counterparts that it intends for the JSA to remain a place for dialogue and armistice agreement implementation.”

This development comes amid heightened tensions following North Korea’s recent test of a Hwasong-18 solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the fifth such test this year. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un described the missile launch as a “powerful warning measure” and has directed the military to take more aggressive actions against perceived threats.


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