War lurks in the shadows on the Korean Peninsula
North Korea has placed its frontline forces on alert for war with the South, in an apparent move to launch attacks should the latter ignore an ultimatum to end its propaganda campaign against Pyongyang.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said the country’s leader Kim Jong-un had ordered the frontline, combined units of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) to “enter a wartime state” from Friday 5:00 pm (0800 GMT).
The troops should be “fully battle-ready to launch surprise operations” while the entire frontline should be placed in a “semi-war state,” the agency quoted him as saying.
Pyongyang has given Seoul until Saturday to call off a mudslinging campaign it recently re-launched against the North by broadcasting propaganda through loudspeakers over the border.
South Korea went back to the practice last week after an 11-year-long hiatus. Seoul made the decision after blaming Pyongyang for a landmine explosion that severely injured two South Korean soldiers who were patrolling the inter-Korean demilitarized zone. North Korea has denied the accusation that it had planted the mines.
Pyongyang has also reinstalled loudspeakers of its own along the border with the South.
An emergency meeting late Thursday of the North’s Central Military Commission (CMC) endorsed the ultimatum and ratified plans for “a retaliatory strike and counterattack on the whole length of the front.”
Brinkmanship at a time of volatility?
South Korea’s Defense Ministry has rejected the North’s ultimatum, with a spokesman insisting the country would “continue operating the loudspeakers.”
The escalation of tensions between the two sides was also marked by a rare exchange of fire on Thursday between the two Korea. According to reports, the exchange of fire was triggered by North Korea, which fired several shells in the general direction of one of the South’s border propaganda units.
The two Koreas remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.