International

North Korea orders troops on war footing

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered his troops onto a war footing from 5 p.m on Friday after Pyongyang issued an ultimatum to Seoul to halt anti-North propaganda broadcasts by Saturday afternoon or face military action.

Tension on the divided peninsula escalated on Thursday when North Korea fired shells into South Korea to protest against the loudspeaker broadcasts from the Korean border. The South responded with its own artillery barrage.

Both sides said there were no casualties or damage in their territory.

The North’s shelling came after it had demanded last weekend that South Korea end the broadcasts or face military action – a relatively rare case of it following up on its frequent threats against the South.

Its 48-hour ultimatum to halt the broadcasts, delivered in a letter to the South Korean Defence Ministry via a joint military communications channel, was also uncharacteristically specific.

A South Korean military official said the broadcasts would continue.

The North Korean leader would put his troops on a “fully armed state of war” starting from 5 p.m. (0430 EDT) and had declared a “quasi-state of war” in frontline areas, Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency reported.

Some North Korean propaganda websites were not accessible on Friday morning.

Pyongyang’s declaration of a semi-state of war was the first use of such terminology since the North shelled a South Korean island in 2010, the Yonhap News Agency said. Two South Korean marines and two civilians were killed in the incident.

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