REPORTS from North Korea say Kim Jong-un has put troops along the border with South Korea on a war footing, after shots were exchanged. KCNA, the state news agency in the heavily fortified and insular nation, said the leader had declared “a semi-state of war” at an emergency meeting on Thursday night (August 20).
The escalating tensions between the neighbours are down to the use of loudspeakers. Both sides regularly blasted propaganda at one another in the 1990s, but agreed to cease the cross-border broadcasts in 2004.
The deal heralded a quieter decade, but on August 10 this year, South Korea cranked their speakers back up to 11 and recommenced the broadcasts. This action was seemingly in response to injuries sustained by two soldiers when a landmine exploded in the demilitarised zone between the two countries, which South Korea blamed on their neighbours to the north.
The North Korean government in Pyongyang ordered a shell to be fired at the loudspeakers in the south in further retaliation, and the south returned artillery fire and evacuated some residents living near the border, although no casualties have been reported.
There is speculation on how serious the threat of “semi-war” from Pyongyang is, although the BBC’s South Korea correspondent says that while the two sides’ aggressive dance often escalates as far as a few shots being fired, the rhetoric in this situation is fiercer, and the use of artillery shells is an unusual step.
However, Reuters international news agency reports that North Korea has also sent correspondence to South Korea saying it is willing to resolve the issue, despite considering the use of broadcasts to be a declaration of war.