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Latest North Korean Offensive: Dumping Trash on South Korea From the Sky

North Korea has resumed an unusual operation to show anger at South Korea: dumping trash from the sky across the world’s most heavily armed border.

Between Tuesday night and Wednesday, the South Korean military said that it found 260 balloons drifting across the Demilitarized Zone, the buffer between the two Koreas. Soon, residents across South Korea, including some in Seoul, the capital, reported seeing plastic bags falling from the sky.

The authorities sent chemical and biological terrorism response squads, as well as bomb squads, to inspect the payloads. But they only found garbage, like cigarette butts, plastic water bottles, used paper and shoes, and what looked like compost. The South Korean military said the garbage was released by timers when the balloons reached its airspace.

North Korea in recent years has taken an increasingly belligerent military stance. Its unusual offensive this week prompted South Korea to send a cellphone alert to residents living near the inter-Korean border to refrain from outdoor activities and watch out for unidentified objects falling from the sky. Some confusion arose when the alert message included the auto-generated English phrase “Air raid preliminary warning.” The government said it would fix the glitch.

“Acts like this by North Korea are a clear violation of international law and a serious threat to the safety of our people,” the South Korean military said in a statement on Wednesday. “We issue a stern warning to North Korea to stop this anti-humanitarian and dirty operation.”

The North Korean balloons arrived in South Korea days after Pyongyang accused North Korean defectors living in South Korea of “scattering leaflets and various dirty things” over its border counties and vowed to take “tit-for-tat action.”

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