North Korea ended peace pacts with South Korea on Thursday in response to new UN sanctions that were agreed on the same day.
Pyongyang initially threatened a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States and South Korea, though experts question whether the country has the ability to launch a nuclear weapon.
North Korea is known for its rhetoric, though its tone has turned more malicious since its third nuclear test last month. The nuclear test caused tensions between the two nations to surge.
The rhetoric and threats by the North have caused concern that a border incident may be in the near future. Both North and South Korea have been planning major military exercises for next week.
The North’s state-run Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea stated on Thursday that North Korea “abrogates all agreements on non-aggression reached between the North and the South.”
North Korea also announced it would close the main Panmungom border crossing inside the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two countries. It also “immediately” cut off the North-South hotline. The hotline was installed in 1971 as a way of communication between the countries at a time of high tension.
The hotline has been severed several times before, though North Korea’s news agency stated it “can no longer perform its mission due to the prevailing grave situation.” Along with ending peace pacts with the South, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has reportedly visited the front-line military units responsible for shelling a South Korean island in 2010.
Kim reportedly urged the soldiers he met with to keep alert so that they are ready to “annihilate the enemy” when it is necessary. South Korea has responded to the North’s threats. Seoul’s defense ministry claimed that, should the North launch a nuclear attack on the country, North Korea would become “extinct from the Earth by the will of mankind.”
The United States also responded to Pyongyang’s threats, saying the threats are serious, but that they are unlikely to follow through. It is unclear what North Korea plans to do now that the peace pacts with the South have been ended.