In a high-level meeting of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC) chaired by Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, North Korea ordered its frontline troops to be fully prepared for war against South Korea. North Korean troops are on war footing from 5:00 p.m. local time Friday. The meeting was held soon after Pyongyang issued an ultimatum to Seoul anti-North Korean propaganda broadcasts by 5:00 p.m. Saturday.
On Thursday, North Korea fired shells into the South, most likely to destroy the loudspeakers broadcasting the anti-Pyongyang propaganda. South Korea responded with heavy artillery shells across the fortified border. According to the state-run KCNA news agency, Kim Jong-Un ordered the frontline and the Korean People’s Army (KPA) to enter a wartime stage.
KCNA quoted Kim Jong-Un as saying that the troops should be “fully battle ready to launch surprise operations” and the frontline be placed in a “semi-war state.” South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said, citing government sources, that North Korea was preparing to fire short-range missiles. The gunfire exchange on Thursday heightened the cross-border tensions to extremely high levels.
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Seoul wants North Korea to apologize
It’s nothing new for North Korea to issue threats. But it’s one of those rare instances that Pyongyang has attached a timeline. Kim Jong-Un has given Seoul until 5 p.m. Saturday to stop the propaganda broadcasts or face military action. So, someone has to blink here first. South Korea had begun broadcasting anti-Pyongyang propaganda after two South Korean soldiers were severely wounded in a landmine blast that Seoul blamed on Pyongyang. North Korea has denied any role in the landmine blast.
South Korean Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung-joo told Reuters that the broadcasts would continue unless North Korea took responsibility and apologized for the landmines. The joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises have further infuriated North Korea. South Korea has placed its troops on high alert. During a meeting of the National Security Council in Seoul, President Park Geun-Hye ordered a “stern response” to any provocations.
The United States has stationed about 28,000 military personnel in South Korea, and the Pentagon was closely monitoring the situation.