NORTH Korea has again intensified threats of imminent conflict with its southern neighbour and the United States, warning foreigners to get out of South Korea or risk being caught in “thermonuclear war”.
Despite the threat, there were no signs of panic in the South Korean capital, Seoul, yesterday, where business continued as usual. Kim Jong-un’s communist regime has shown no sign of preparing its 1.2 million-strong army for war, indicating the threat could be aimed partly at bolstering the 30-year-old leader’s authority. He is the third generation of the Kim dynasty to lead the country, and took over in December 2011.
The North, which threatens the US and its “puppet”, South Korea, on a daily basis, is marking anniversaries this week that usually involve strong rhetoric and shows of military might.
The warning to foreigners in the South, reported by the state-controlled KCNA news agency, said once war broke out “it will be an all-out war, a merciless, sacred, retaliatory war to be waged by North Korea.
“It does not want to see foreigners in South Korea fall victim to the war,” the agency quoted the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee as saying.
“The committee informs all foreign institutions and enterprises and foreigners, including tourists … that they are requested to take measures for shelter and evacuation in advance for their safety.”
All foreign embassies in Seoul appeared to be operating as normal. Schools for foreign children were not disrupted.
The warning, read out on North Korea’s state television in a bulletin that interrupted normal programming, was the latest threat in weeks of high tension following United Nations’ sanctions slapped on Pyongyang for its latest nuclear arms test.
Also featured in broadcasts were reports of celebrations marking Saturday’s 20th anniversary of the current leader’s father, Kim Jong-il, taking over the leadership and next Monday’s birthday of his grandfather, state founder Kim Il-sung.
A government source in Seoul said a North Korean medium-range missile, reported to have been shunted to the east coast, had been tracked and was believed to be ready for launch.
“Technically, they can launch it as early as tomorrow,” the source said.