The North Korea treatened to shut down an industrial zone, the last major symbol of inter-Korean cooperation near the heavily armed border between the two sides, if Seoul kept on saying the complex was being kept running for money.
The two Koreas have been in a state of war for several decades under a truce that ended their 1950-53 conflict. Howeverm despite all threats and warnings, few people see any indication Pyongyang will risk a near-certain defeat by re-starting full-scale war.
“As of now, inter-Korea relations enter a state of war and all matters between the two Koreas will be handled according to wartime protocol,” the North said in a joint statement attributed to all government bodies and institutions.
“From this time on, the North-South relations will be entering the state of war and all issues raised between the North and the South will be handled accordingly,” a statement carried by the North’s official KCNA news agency said.
As Reuters writes, KCNA said the statement was issued by the North’s government, ruling party and other organizations.
Earlier this month North Korea announced it plans to rip up the armistice and other bilateral peace pacts signed with Seoul in protest against South Korea-US joint military exercises, The Telegraph reports.
“This is not really a new threat – just part of a series of provocative threats,” the South’s Unification Ministry said in a statement. The defence ministry confirmed that no troop movement had been observed along the border.
South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok assured that the country’s military are mindful of the possibility that increasing drills near the border could lead to an actual provocation.
“The series of North Korean threats – announcing all-out war, scrapping the cease-fire agreement and the non-aggression agreement between the South and the North, cutting the military hotline, entering into combat posture No. 1 and entering a `state of war’ – are unacceptable and harm the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula,” Kim said.
“We are maintaining full military readiness in order to protect our people’s lives and security,” he told reporters Saturday.
However, on the streets of Seoul on South Koreans seemed not to be worried or afraid of possible attack from North Korea.
“From other countries’ point of view, it may seem like an extremely urgent situation,” said Kang Tae-hwan, a private tutor. “But South Koreans don’t seem to be that nervous because we’ve heard these threats from the North before.”
Russia warned on Friday that North and South Korea alongside with the U.S. were engaged in a dangerous game of brinkmanship that could spiral out of control.
“We are opposed to any steps from any side that increase tensions,” said Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister.
Earlier on Friday, Kim Jong-un released an order to prepare to strike the U.S. as a British tour operator was warned that the “outbreak of war was probably only hours away”.
The news came after US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that Washington would not be cowed by Pyongyang’s bellicose threats and stood ready to respond to “any eventuality”.