Amidst mounting tensions on the peninsula, this morning Kim Jong-Un called for North Korea’s military to enter a “full readiness of war,” by 5pm today, local time Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported. That deadline has just passed.
While there’s no indication that anything has changed on the North-South Korea border, the next 24 hours could be crucial. South Korean officials believe their northern neighbor is likely to launch provocations by 5pm local time on Saturday.
This latest conflict between the divided territories arose after two South Korean soldiers suffered serious injuries following a mine explosion along the DMZ (de-militarized zone), which the UN and South Korea determined was planted by the North. After both sides re-instituted loudspeaker propaganda campaigns, warfare erupted when the North reportedly fired shots towards the South, prompting the South to fire back.
This isn’t the first time tensions on the Korean Peninsula have come close to a breaking point. In 2013, the North declared it would enter into a “state of war” with the South, though both South Korea and the UN dismissed the threats as empty rhetoric. In 2010, North Korean artillery shots directed at the island of Yeonpyeong killed two civilians following a South Korean military drill, but neither side instigated further attacks.
It’s difficult to tell if the latest tensions have risen in earnest, or in advance of the upcoming anniversary of founding of the Workers Party of North Korea, which makes prime time for political posturing. ”The North Koreans are feeling very vulnerable at the moment. With the 70th anniversary of the end of the war [and] with the 70th anniversary of their party coming into two months, they’re trying to show force,” The Korea Society’s Stephen Noerper told Bloomberg. Even if Kim’s calls are politically motivated, that doesn’t make them any less real.