North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un on Friday said his country was in a “quasi-state of war” with South Korea and ordered his military to prepare for battle.
The escalating war rhetoric from the secretive, nuclear-armed state comes a day after what some military analysts described as the most serious confrontation between the rival Koreas in years but others said simply reflected a periodic ratcheting up in tensions between the neighboring countries.
On Thursday, South Korea fired dozens of artillery rounds at North Korea in response to what it said were North Korean artillery strikes directed at Seoul.
Pyongyang said it did not fire the shells at South Korea. No one was injured in the incident.
On Friday, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency nevertheless said that Kim Jong Un ordered his military to be ready for potential action later in the day.
“Military commanders were urgently dispatched for operations to attack South Korean psychological warfare facilities if the South doesn’t stop operating them,” the report said, according to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Friday that Seoul’s intelligence agencies detected the movement of vehicles carrying short-range Scud and medium-range Rodong missiles in possible preparation for launches.
The report cited anonymous government officials. South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it could not confirm the report, according to the AP.
South Korea is accustomed to discounting North Korea’s repeated threats and the seriousness of this latest clash remains unclear.
“The fact that both sides’ shells didn’t damage anything means they did not want to spread an armed clash. There is always a chance for war but that chance is very, very low,” Yang Moo-jin, a professor in North Korean studies in Seoul,
The latest escalation comes amid anger from Pyongyang over Seoul’s decision to place loudspeakers on the border that North Korea says it is using to broadcast anti-Pyongyang comments and propaganda.
North Korea wants it stopped, but Seoul has vowed to continued with the broadcasts. The broadcasts began after South Korea accused the North of planting land mines that maimed two South Korean soldiers earlier this month.
North Korea denies that allegation.
Korea was a unified nation until the end of the Korean War in 1953. Tensions between the two sides have escalated in recent years amid Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.