North Korea warns of war with South af­ter ar­tillery fire

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY ERIC TAL­MADGE AND HYUNG-JIN KIM

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Fri­day de­clared his front­line troops in a “qua­sis­tate of war” and or­dered them to pre­pare for bat­tle a day af­ter the most se­ri­ous con­fronta­tion be­tween the ri­vals in years.

South Korea’s mil­i­tary on Thurs­day fired dozens of ar­tillery rounds across the bor­der 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 Fri­day is sim­i­lar to its 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 North Korea at­tack again.

Py­ongyang says it did not fire any­thing at the South, a claim Seoul dis­missed as non­sense.

‘ En­ter a Wartime State’

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 North has also given Seoul a dead­line of Satur­day evening to re­move bor­der loud­speak­ers that, af­ter a lull of 11 years, have started broad­cast­ing anti- Py­ongyang pro­pa­ganda. Fail­ure, Py­ongyang says, will re­sult in fur­ther mil­i­tary ac­tion. Seoul has vowed to con­tinue the broad­casts.

The North’s media re­port said that “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 an uniden­ti­fied gov­ern­ment source, re­ported Fri­day that South Korean and U. S. sur­veil­lance as­sets de­tected the move­ment of ve­hi­cles car­ry­ing short- range Scud and medium- range Rodong mis­siles in a pos­si­ble prepa­ra­tion for launches. South Korea’s De­fense Min­istry said it could not con­firm the re­port.

North Korea said the South Korean shells fired Thurs­day landed near four mil­i­tary posts but caused no in­juries. No one was re­ported in­jured in the South, ei­ther, though hun­dreds were evac­u­ated from towns.

The loud­speaker broad­casts be­gan af­ter South Korea ac­cused the North of plant­ing land mines that maimed two South Korean sol­diers ear­lier this month. North Korea de­nies this, too.

Au­thor­i­tar­ian North Korea, which has also restarted its own pro­pa­ganda broad­casts, is ex­tremely sen­si­tive to any crit­i­cism of its gov­ern­ment, run by leader Kim Jong Un, whose fam­ily has ruled since the North was founded in 1948. The loud­speaker broad­casts are taken se­ri­ously in Py­ongyang be­cause the gov­ern­ment does not want its sol­diers and res­i­dents to hear out­siders crit­i­cize hu­man rights abuses and eco­nomic mis­man­age­ment that con­demns many to ab­ject poverty, South Korean an­a­lysts say.

North Korea on Thurs­day af­ter­noon first fired a sin­gle round be­lieved to be from an anti- air­craft gun, which landed near a South Korean bor­der town, Seoul said. About 20 min­utes later, three North Korean ar­tillery shells fell on the south­ern side of the Demil­i­ta­rized Zone di­vid­ing the two Koreas. South Korea re­sponded with dozens of 155- milime­ter ar­tillery rounds, ac­cord­ing to South Korean de­fense of­fi­cials.

South Korea’s m i l i t a r y

front­line warned Fri­day that North Korea must re­frain from en­gag­ing in “rash acts” or face strong pun­ish­ment, ac­cord­ing to South Korea’s De­fense Min­istry.

South Korea raised its mil­i­tary readi­ness to its high­est level. Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Jeon Ha- kyu told a tele­vised news con­fer­ence that South Korea is ready to re­pel any ad­di­tional provo­ca­tion.

Es­ca­la­tion is a risk in any mil­i­tary ex­change be­tween the Koreas be­cause af­ter two at­tacks blamed on Py­ongyang killed 50 South Kore­ans in 2010, South Korea’s mil­i­tary warned that any fu­ture North Korean at­tack could trig­ger strikes by South Korea that are three times as large.

AP

South Korean protesters with de­faced por­traits of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and North Korean flags shout slo­gans dur­ing an anti-North Korean rally in Seoul, Fri­day, Aug. 21.

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