Tension continued to escalate on Tuesday as North Korea intensified threats against South Korea and the U.S. warning of “catastrophic consequences.”
The regime has cut off an emergency hotline with the South and declared the end of nonaggression pacts, in protest of joint military drills of the two allies.
Pyongyang’s official media carried a statement from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, blasting Seoul and Washington for staging “the most dangerous drills for a nuclear war.”
“The U.S. and South Korean puppet forces are wholly to blame for all the ensuing catastrophic consequences from this moment,” it said.
“The Key Resolve joint military exercises for aggression are a clear declaration of war against (the North).”
|North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits Tuesday a long-range artillery unit, which is assigned to attack South Korea’s western border Baengnyeongdo Island should a war break out. (Yonhap News)|
The 11-day Key Resolve drill by the two allies kicked off Monday, and the two countries have also been carrying out their two-month Foal Eagle training since the beginning of the month.
In a separate report, leader Kim Jong-un visited two frontline military units less than a week after inspecting an artillery unit that led the communist country’s 2010 shelling of Yeonpyeongdo Island near the western maritime border.
Kim called on the troops at the Wolnae unit to ready to “throw into a cauldron” South Korean Marines on Baengnyeongdo Island, only about 11 kilometers away.
“Once an order is issued, you should break the waists of the crazy enemies, totally cut their windpipes and thus clearly show them what a real war is like,” he was quoted as saying by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
Seoul’s Defense Ministry dismissed the threats, saying it is not detecting any signs of a new nuclear test or missile launch.
“North Korea is seen to be uniting its people internally through a series of political and military activities and externally pressing South Korea and the U.S. through threats to shift their North Korea policy in the face of Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises and U.N. sanctions,” ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing.
Meanwhile, the U.S. on Monday added the North’s Foreign Trade Bank and four individuals “directly tied to” nuclear activities to its sanctions list. They are Pak To-chun, head of the ruling Workers Party’s Munitions Industry Department; Chu Kyu-chang, who directs that branch; O Kuk-ryol, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission; and Paek Se-bong, chairman of the Second Economic Committee in charge of ballistic missile production.
The move comes four days after the U.N. Security Council imposed its fourth batch of sanctions as punishment for the North’s Feb. 12 atomic test. All four individuals are also currently sanctioned by the U.N. and European Union.
“North Korea will continue to face isolation if it refuses to take concrete steps to comply with its international obligations and address the concerns of the international community over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
By Shin Hyon-hee (email@example.com