North Korea’s 32-year-old leader Kim Jong Un has ordered his troops to “enter a wartime state” and have full combat readiness as tensions with rival South Korea escalated one day after shell fire was exchanged across the world’s most heavily fortified border, Agence-France Presse reported.
Hours after the shelling on Thursday, Kim met with his party’s central military commission and told the commanders to prepare front-line troops for battle as the two countries enter a “quasi-state of war,” according to North Korea’s state media. Since the 1950-1953 war which ended in an armistice and the creation of North Korea as a new state, the two countries have technically still been at war.
Tensions started escalating after the North fired a rocket into a western border town Thursday afternoon, possibly taking aim at a loudspeaker blasting anti-North Korea propaganda, the BBC reported. The attack prompted South Korean troops to counter with artillery fire of their own, the South’s defense ministry said. There were no casualties reported in the exchange, South Korea’s Yonhap News reported.
After the shelling on Thursday, North Korea issued a threat to take military action against South Korea if the country does not stop playing its propaganda messages on loudspeakers that cross the border, saying it would carry out “indiscriminate strikes” on South Korea. South Korea’s defense ministry dismissed the threat and said they would continue airing the messages, although troops were placed on maximum alert. The United States is monitoring the situation and remains “steadfast” in its commitments to defend South Korea.