NORTH Korean leader Kim Jong Un yesterday declared his frontline troops in a “quasi state of war” with South Korea and ordered them to prepare for battle, a day after the most serious confrontation between the rivals in years.
South Korea’s military fired dozens of artillery rounds across the border on Thursday in response to what Seoul said were North Korean artillery strikes meant to back up a threat to attack loudspeakers broadcasting anti-Pyongyang propaganda.
The North’s declaration yesterday is similar to 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, the North’s apparent willingness to test Seoul with military strikes and its recent warning of further action raise worries, because South Korea has vowed to hit back with overwhelming strength should its neighbour attack again.
Pyongyang says it did not fire anything at the South, a claim Seoul dismissed as nonsense.
Kim ordered his troops to “enter a wartime state” and be fully ready for any military operations starting last night, according to a report by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency. The North also gave Seoul a deadline of tonight to remove border loudspeakers that, after a lull of 11 years, have started broadcasting anti-Pyongyang propaganda. Failure, the North says, will result in further military action. Seoul has vowed to continue the broadcasts.
The North’s media report said “military commanders were urgently dispatched for operations to attack South Korean psychological warfare facilities if the South doesn’t stop operating them”.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing a government source, reported yesterday that South Korean and US surveillance assets had detected the movement of vehicles carrying short-range Scud and medium-range Rodong missiles in a possible preparation for launches. South Korea’s defence ministry could not confirm the report.
North Korea said the South’s shells fired on Thursday had landed near four military posts but caused no injuries. No one was injured in the South, either, though hundreds were evacuated from front-line towns.
The loudspeaker broadcasts began after Seoul accused the North of planting land mines that maimed two South Korean soldiers earlier this month. North Korea denies this, too.
Pyongyang, which has restarted its own propaganda broadcasts, is extremely sensitive to any criticism of its government, run by Kim, whose family has ruled since the North was founded in 1948.