Following through on a standing threat that it revived last week amid tensions over joint U.S.-South Korean military drills coupled with U.N. sanctions, North Korea declared the armistice nullified as of Monday and that the guns of the 1950-53 Korean War, silenced for 60 years under an uneasy truce, could roar again any time.
North Korea also severed military and Red Cross hot lines and issued a torrent of threats, including a possible “pre-emptive nuclear strike” against Washington and Seoul.
In North Korea, the authorities were kicking up a war fever — a tool of populace control they had previously used at times of international tension — by having people evacuate into tunnels with emergency provisions and putting up military camouflages on buses and trucks, the South Korean Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.
Mr. Kim, the North Korean leader, visited front-line artillery units twice in the last week, warning that “war can break out right now” and calling for merciless strikes at the South Korean marine bases he watched across the border through binoculars, according to North Korean media.
Last Friday, Hyon Yong-chol, the chief of the General Staff of the North Korean People’s Army, visited the truce village of Panmunjom on the border, raising fears among some South Koreans that the North might repeat what it had done there in 1996 by sending hundreds of armed troops to punctuate its claim that the armistice was no longer valid.
Stressing their alliance against North Korean threats, President Park Geun-hye’s office announced on Tuesday that she planned to meet President Obama in Washington in early May in her first summit since taking office on Feb. 25. The announcement came a day after the allies launched their annual Key Resolve joint military exercise, which are in addition to their two-month-long Foal Eagle drill that began on March 1.
“A unilateral nullification or termination of the armistice is not allowed under its related articles and principles of international laws,” said Cho Tae-young, spokesman of the South Korean Foreign Ministry. “We demand that North Korea withdraw comments that threaten the stability and peace of the Korean Peninsula and the region.”
He was referring to the provision of the armistice stipulating that it can be changed only through “mutually acceptable” agreements.
Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for the United Nations, which sent allied troops to fight for South Korea during the war, also told reporters that North Korea could not dissolve the armistice unilaterally.
Kim Min-seok, spokesman of the South Korean Defense Ministry, said on Tuesday that there was no sign of imminent nuclear or missile tests by the North or hostilities along the inter-Korean border. He said that the “rhetorical threats” flooding the North’s state-run media was aimed at putting “psychological pressure” on the South.
“Through a series of political and military activities, North Korea is strengthening the solidarity of its people at home, while using the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises as a pretext to threaten and pressure South Korea and the United States to change their polices,” he said. “If they launch a provocation, we will respond more strongly and make sure that they suffer far more.”
Jay Carney, a White House spokesman, said the U.S. was “certainly concerned by North Korea’s bellicose rhetoric. And the threats that they have been making follow a pattern designed to raise tension and intimidate others.”
South Korea Disputes North’s Dismissal of Armistice – New York Times