South Korea says it has tried to send a message urging North Korea to apologize for its recent artillery fire provocation and to punish those responsible. Defence officials said South Korea will continue the loudspeaker broadcasts despite the threats.
North Korea had earlier issued a deadline for the dismantling of banks of loudspeakers, which have been blasting news bulletins, weather forecasts and music from the South. It had moved artillery into positions to fire on them.
US soldiers prepare for a military exercise at a training field near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Pocheon, South Korea, August 21, 2015.
The global community has long experience of North Korea’s particularly aggressive brand of diplomatic brinkmanship and, while there is concern over the potential for escalation, many see the situation as another exercise in attention-seeking by Pyongyang. The South responded with its own artillery barrage.
He repeated North Korea’s threat of military action if South Korea does not meet a Saturday deadline for removing loudspeakers along their border that recently resumed broadcasting anti-North Korean propaganda after a lull of 11 years.
Kim Jong Un ordered his troops to “enter a wartime state” and be fully ready for any military operations starting Friday evening, according to a report in Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency.
“The government should manage this situation firmly and peacefully”, the statement said.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, the country’s main agency for inter-Korean affairs, said an under-15 global soccer tournament in Pyongyang began on Friday and is proceeding as planned. It was unclear if the exercise would resume.
“The South and the North agreed to hold contact related to the ongoing situation in South-North relations”, Kim Kyou-hyun, the presidential Blue House’s deputy national security adviser, said in a televised briefing. North Korea denies that allegation.
“It is an worldwide event and we don’t consider the South Korean players at risk at this point”, said a ministry official. South Korea has raised its military readiness to its highest level.
Tensions between the neighbors rose this month when two South Korean soldiers were wounded by a landmine in the heavily-fortified demilitarized zone, which Seoul said was planted by North Korea.
On Thursday, the two Koreas reportedly exchanged fires across border over the propaganda broadcasts, which the DPRK has called ” a declaration of war”.
“We’ve been here before several times, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still unsafe”, said Yoo Ho-Yeol, a professor of North Korean studies at Korea University in Seoul.
Kim Myong-chol, of The Centre for North Korea-US Peace and a regime mouthpiece, said: “If the loudspeakers are still in place at 5pm on Saturday [8pm in UK] the North will attack with artillery, from the air and with land forces”.
“If so, South Korea must have a firm, strong, and timely response to signal its resolve that it will not be intimidated”.
The broadcasts were part of a programme of psychological warfare, according to South Korean newspaper Korea Times, to deliver outside news so that North Korean soldiers and border-area residents could hear it.