SEOUL, Aug. 21 (UPI) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared a “semi-state of war” after an exchange of fire between North and South pushed both sides into a state of high alert on Friday.
Kim had convened an emergency meeting at 5 p.m. Pyongyang time to discuss actions to be taken in response to South Korea’s refusal to dismantle propaganda loudspeakers, the BBC reported. Pyongyang has warned the South it would take new military action if Seoul does not put an end to its anti-North Korea broadcasts.
During the meeting, Kim told his commanders North Korea’s front-line troops are to be on a war footing following an exchange of artillery fire on Friday. The meeting comes after Pyongyang had sent a letter to the South requesting a non-military solution to the broadcasts, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.
North Korea has said the reports of its firing were a “fabrication” of the South, but South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo said late Friday evening North Korea’s artillery fire was a violation of the 1953 Armistice and that Pyongyang will pay a “bitter price,” South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
“Despite their actions, North Korea is denying they are provoking [the South] and acting as if they have done nothing wrong, delivering an ultimatum and raising military tensions,” Han said, according to South Korean outlet Newsis.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Friday all North Korea provocations were unacceptable and the safety of military personnel and civilians was a priority.
Safety for some South Koreans means remaining in government shelters until tensions recede.
Residents of an area near the demilitarized zone in Gyeonggi province in the west were evacuated on Thursday, and have been banned from returning to their homes for two days.
The residents of Dureumi village by the Imjin river said they hoped the tensions would cease so that they could return. A 10-year-old South Korean boy told Hankyoreh that he had missed school because of the evacuation.
“I’m afraid that war might break out,” Choi Su-hyeok told the South Korean newspaper. “It would be really nice if South and North Korea are unified as soon as possible.”