North Korea has declared it is entering a “state of war” with neighboring South Korea.
The isolated state has directed numerous hostile statements towards Seoul and the US in recent days and weeks, and the latest rhetoric promises “stern physical actions” against “any provocative act.”
Though many believe the North is unlikely to wage a full-blown war, the newest statements are yet another step up in the posturing taking place between North Korea, South Korea, and the US. The North has already said its rockets are on standby to attack US military bases in South Korea and the Pacific, while an assault on the US mainland has also been promised.
A North Korean statement released on Saturday said:
“From this time on, the North-South relations will be entering the state of war and all issues raised between the North and the South will be handled accordingly. The long-standing situation of the Korean peninsula being neither at peace nor at war is finally over.”
Tensions in the Korean peninsula have been high ever since fresh UN sanctions were introduced to punish North Korea for its February 12 nuclear test. Since the sanctions were imposed, the US and South Korea have begun their annual joint military drills, prompting North Korea to announce it had scrapped the Korean War armistice.
After several further threats to South Korean and US targets, the US flew B-52 nuclear-capable bombers over the Korean peninsula on March 19, followed by stealth bombers on March 28. The latter action was designed to show Pyongyang that the US could launch long-distance precision strikes “at will.”
On Thursday, state media in North Korea revealed leader Kim Jong-un had “judged the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists.”
Russia has warned the nations involved about entering a “vicious circle,” while China, North Korea’s biggest trading partner, has advised that all sides make attempts to ease tensions.
Technically, North and South Korea have remained at war since 1953, the year the Korean War ended. While an armistice was signed between the two nations, it was never turned into a peace treaty.