North Korean leader Kim Jong-un yesterday declared his frontline troops are in a “quasi-state of war” and ordered them to prepare for battle a day after the most serious confrontation between the rivals in years.
South Korea’s military on Thursday fired dozens of artillery rounds across the border in response to what Seoul said were North Korean artillery strikes meant to back up a threat to attack loudspeakers broadcasting anti-Pyongyang propaganda.
North Korea’s declaration yesterday is similar to its other warlike rhetoric in recent years, including repeated threats to reduce Seoul to a “sea of fire,” and the huge numbers of soldiers and military equipment already stationed along the border mean the area is always essentially in a “quasi-state of war.”
Still, North Korea’s apparent willingness to test Seoul with military strikes and its recent warning of further action has raised concern because South Korea has vowed to hit back with overwhelming strength should North Korea attack again.
Pyongyang said it did not fire anything at South Korea, a claim Seoul dismissed as nonsense.
Kim ordered his troops to “enter a wartime state” and be fully ready for any military operations starting yesterday evening, according to a report by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency. North Korea has also given Seoul a deadline of today to remove border loudspeakers that, after a lull of 11 years, have started broadcasting anti-Pyongyang propaganda.
Failure would result in military action, Pyongyang said, but Seoul has vowed to continue the broadcasts.
A North Korean media report said that “military commanders were urgently dispatched for operations to attack South Korean psychological warfare facilities if the South does not stop operating them.”
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing an unidentified government source, yesterday reported that South Korean and US surveillance assets detected the movement of vehicles carrying short-range Scud and medium-range Rodong missiles in a possible preparation for launches. The South Korean Ministry of National Defense said it could not confirm the report.
North Korea said South Korean shells fired on Thursday landed near four military posts, but caused no injuries. No one was reported injured in South Korea, either, although hundreds were evacuated from frontline towns.
The loudspeaker broadcasts began after South Korea accused North Korea of planting land mines that maimed two South Korean soldiers earlier this month, which Pyongyang denies.
North Korea on Thursday afternoon first fired a single round believed to be from an anti-aircraft gun, which landed near a South Korean border town, Seoul said. About 20 minutes later, three North Korean artillery shells fell on the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two nations. South Korea responded with dozens of 155mm artillery rounds, according to South Korean defense officials.
South Korea’s military yesterday said that North Korea must refrain from engaging in “rash acts” or face strong punishment, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry. South Korea raised its military readiness to its highest level. South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Jeon Ha-kyu told a televised news conference that South Korea is ready to repel any additional provocation.
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