Things are continuing to heat up on the Korean Peninsula on Friday as South Korea continues to blast loudspeakers across the border, and North Korea declared a state of “semi-war” against the south. Both countries increased the alert status of their armed forces and mobilized front line troops, but there have only been sporadic artillery exchanges with no casualties so far in this latest flare up.
Global leaders are growing increasingly worried that the conflict on the Korean Peninsula could heat up, as both sides are known nuclear powers.
Latest details on North Korea situation
According to several media sources, the North Korean military was placed on a state of full alert by revered (and clearly bonkers) leader Kim Jong Un on Friday, and he also called for troops positioned along the border with South Korea to be in a “semi-war state” as of 5 p.m. The North Korean military was also seen moving artillery rockets launchers into place close to the DMZ on Friday.
The government of North Korea also set a 48-hour deadline for the south to stop its loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts across the DMZ. South Korea started up the loudspeaker broadcasts again after a several year hiatus after two of its soldiers were killed by a mine planted by a North Korean saboteur near the border last week.
A North Korean military official told the AP that senior party and defense officials including Kim Jong Un met Thursday night and “reviewed and approved the final attack operation.” No details were provided regarding the military attach North Korea would see as appropriate retribution for the retaliatory shelling of its territory on Thursday.
Also of note, according to South Korean government sources, both the U.S. and South Korea have increased the alert levels for their troops. South Korean media is also reporting that Seoul has warned the north that it will respond robustly to any other provocations.
Following the announcement by North Korea on Friday, South Korean Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung-joo noted there was a strong possibility that the North would launch artillery attacks at some of the sites where the loudspeakers are currently located in the DMZ separating the two countries.
Already high tensions on the peninsula surged on Thursday when North Korea fired four shells into South Korea in a protest against the loudpeaker broadcasts. Seoul responded with 29 artillery shells aimed close to where the first shots originated. The north then accused the south of simply looking for a pretext to fire into the north.
However, both sides claimed there were no casualties or damage, which is a strong indication according to military experts that the nations were just exchanging warning shots.
Academic says very low chance for real war
“The fact that both sides’ shells didn’t damage anything means they did not want to spread an armed clash. There is always a chance for war, but that chance is very, very low,” explained Yang Moo-jin, a member of the faculty at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
Ulchi Freedom Exercise war games continue
U.S. Forces Korea noted early Friday that the ongoing Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise would continue as planned.
Keep in mind that 50,000 South Korean and 30,000 U.S. military are participating in UFG, which is an annual computer simulation and real world exercise. Although the two allies argue the annual drill is nonprovocative and strictly defense-oriented, every year North Korea claims the war games are an existential threat and warns that a strong military action will be forthcoming if the exercise is not canceled.
Military analysts point out that these kind of preposterous threats from North Korea are common both before and during military exercises, and are made almost completely for propaganda purposes.
Anti-North Korea protesters in Seoul
Politics also plays a role in the relationship between North and South Korea. According to AP reports, close to 100 anti-North Korea activists came together in Seoul to protest the fatal mine incident and recent artillery shelling by North Korea. The protesters lit posters with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a North Korean flag on fire.
“We urge U.N. and the international community to strongly punish and deal with North Korean dictatorship with strong anti-North sanctions and to push the North to renounce nuclear development and weapons,” protester Park Chan-sung said.