Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of North Korea, has ordered front-line armed forces units to enter “a wartime state” after a fire exchange with South Korea, reported Korean Central News Agency on Friday.
The statement, employing belligerent language characteristic of North Korea, adds to the tense situation in the region.
According to the South Korean Defense Ministry, the two sides exchanged artillery fire over their greatly fortified boundary on Thursday afternoon.
Describing the exchange, the ministry said that two shells came from the North Korean side, and South Korea responded with dozens of shells.
There were no casualties reported from the exchange.
Jong Un led a crisis meeting of the Central Military Commission of the North on Thursday, issuing a directive that the military’s “front-line large combined units” should “enter a wartime state to be fully battle ready to launch surprise operations,” KCNA reported.
According to the report, he also directed that “the area along the front be put in a semi-war state.”
The procedures will take effect from Friday 5 p.m. local time.
During a time of heightened anxiety in the area in 2013, North Korea declared it had entered “a state of war” with South Korea. However, that state of affairs didn’t result in military conflicts.
According to Jamie Metzl, an Asia expert for the Atlantic Council in New York, the present crisis may not go much further.
“North Korea has more to gain from Conflict Theater than from a conflict that would quickly expose its fundamental weakness,” said Metzl.
South Korea, a chief United States ally and where approximately 28,000 U.S. troops are based, announced that it’s on high alert after the fierce exchange.
According to Cmdr. William Urban, a Defense Department spokesperson, the Pentagon is also keeping an eye on the state of affairs.
South Korea has blamed the North for intentionally planting landmines, an accusation that Pyongyang denies.
Seoul declared a “harsh” reaction to the mines and resumed loud propaganda messages over the boundary from massive loudspeakers last week.
The decision enraged North Korea’s rotund leader, who called the propagation “a direct action of declaring a war.” The country threatened to destroy the South Korean loudspeakers and also cautioned against “indiscriminate strikes.”
A top United States official told CNN that the U.S. thinks that North Korea destroyed a South Korean speaker on Thursday.
According to South Korea, around 5 p. m on Thursday, North Korea sent a written message threatening armed action if Seoul doesn’t discontinue the propaganda announcements within two days and take away the speakers.
On Friday, An official from the South Korean Defense Ministry warned that Seoul would hit back strongly to any further provocation from North Korean.
On Monday, North Korea came up with its own propaganda messages over the boundary, the same day the South started armed forces exercises with other countries, including the U.S.
According to Pyongyang the drills are a prelude to an invasion.