Seoul (dpa) – North Korea has put front-line troops on full combat
readiness against the South, and its UN deputy ambassador said the
country would respond militarily if South Korea doesn’t stop
broadcasting propaganda to the North.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said there was a “quasi state of
war,” the Yonhap News Agency reported, citing North Korean state
media.

Commanders were sent to the front line “to destroy psychological
warfare tools if the enemy does not stop the propaganda broadcast
within 48 hours,” the report said.

North Korea fired artillery Thursday at a propaganda loudspeaker in
the South, which had been restarted after an 11-year silence.

An Myong Hun, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations,
told reporters in New York Friday that unless South Korea stopped the
broadcasts within the 48-hour deadline, his country was ready to
retaliate.

“If South Korea does not respond to our ultimatum, we will respond,”
An said. “It will be a strong military counteraction.”

The deputy ambassador also called on the UN Security Council to hold
a meeting to discuss the escalation.

Seoul said the broadcasts were resumed in response to a landmine in
the Demilitarized Zone that blew the legs off two South Korean
soldiers on patrol. The South says the landmine was laid by the
North.

South Korean forces returned fire Thursday after the North’s salvo,
and civilians were evacuated from near the western part of the border
where the North Korean shells landed, Yonhap reported.

In Washington, Assistant Defense Secretary for Asian and Pacific
Security Affairs David Shear confirmed that ongoing US military
exercises with South Korea had been “suspended temporarily” amid this
week’s hostilities “in order to allow the US side to coordinate with
the [Republic of Korea] side on the actual exchange of artillery fire
across the DMZ.”

“That exercise has resumed as planned, and we are conducting the
exercise as planned,” he said in a Pentagon briefing.

Shear said that the United States was “very concerned” by North
Korea’s recent moves.

“The DPRK’s provocative actions heightened tensions, and we call on
Pyongyang to refrain from actions and rhetoric that threaten regional
peace and stability, and we are at one with our ROK ally on this,” he
said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean foreign
minister, was “deeply concerned” by the developments and called on
the parties to “refrain from taking any further action,” Ban’s
spokeswoman Eri Kaneko said.

Seoul said Friday it would limit citizens’ entry into the jointly run
industrial park at Kaesong in North Korean territory, allowing only
managers directly involved in operations in and out, Yonhap reported.

Kim ordered his top commanders to prepare for military action,
according to Korean Central Television.

The North’s military was thought “likely to launch provocations after
5 pm on Saturday,” Defence Minister Han Min Koo told a meeting of
military commanders Friday, according to another Yonhap report.

North and South Korea fought the Korean War from 1950-53. The war
ended with a ceasefire but no formal peace treaty, leaving the two
governments legally still at war.