North Korea on Saturday said its relations with South Korea had entered into “a state of war” and warned of taking action as its neighbour continues with ongoing joint military drills with the United States.
The North, which has in recent days nullified an armistice agreement; disconnected a military hotline with its neighbour; and issued a series of military threats, said in a statement, “From this moment, the North-South relations will be put at the state of war, and all the issues arousing between the North and the South will be dealt with according to the wartime regulations.”
On Friday, new leader Kim Jong-un, who took over in 2011 following the death of his father and long-time ruler Kim Jong-il, said he had put the North’s missiles on standby and warned that the military could strike U.S. bases in Hawaii and Guam in the Pacific, in retaliation for recent flights by U.S. stealth bombers across the Korean Peninsula as part of military drills.
How far the North will go in continuing with its warnings — and whether it will take the unlikely step of taking any action — remains to be seen as the U.S. and the South continue with military drills in coming days.
While analysts have noted that similar warnings were issued in the past when joint military drills were held, the rhetoric from the North has, this year, appeared stronger than usual.
Few analysts do, however, expect the country to follow through on its threats, and have seen the announcement as being possibly aimed at a domestic audience. The South Korean Yonhap news agency also pointed out on Saturday that despite recent threats, the North was still allowing border crossings by South Koreans to the Kaesong joint industrial complex on the border, which was, as of Saturday night, continuing to remain open for work despite the threats of war.