North Korea’s leader has ordered its military to be fully ready for war, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency says.
Kim Jong-un declared a “quasi-state of war” after convening an emergency meeting of the Communist country’s military leaders, Yonhap reported North Korean TV as saying.
It comes after North Korea fired a shell across the border into South Korea, prompting Seoul to respond with multiple rounds of artillery fire.
The North had earlier threatened military action if the South continued pumping propaganda into the North across the border using loud speakers.
Anti-Pyongyang statements have been broadcast across the frontier in recent days.
North Korea denied provoking the exchange of fire, accusing Seoul of using what it called a “nonexistent pretext”.
North Korean Central Televsion said: “Commanders of the Korean People’s Army were hastily dispatched to the front-line troops to command military operations to destroy psychological warfare tools if the enemy does not stop the propaganda broadcast within 48 hours and prepare against the enemy’s possible counteractions.”
The United States expressed concern about the situation and urged the communist nation to refrain from threatening regional security.
State Department spokesperson Katina Adams told Yonhap: “The United States is concerned by the DPRK’s firing of a projectile into the ROK.
“The United States remains steadfast in its commitments to the defense and its allies, and will continue to coordinate closely with the ROK.”
The US Department of Defense said it was monitoring the Korean Peninsula closely and the UN said it was following tensions “with serious concern”.
About 28,500 American troops remain stationed in South Korea, with the US having retained bases following the end of the Korean War in 1953.
The three-year Korean conflict was ended by a ceasefire, rather than a peace treaty, technically maintaining a state of war.
South Korea said it would take pre-emptive action to stabilise its markets during the heightened tensions if required.