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IN THE NEWS - Kim Jong Un Declares ‘Quasi-State of War' with S. Korea

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks at an emergency meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) Central Military Commission in Pyongyang, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Aug.  21, 2015. (REUTERS/KCNA)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks at an emergency meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) Central Military Commission in Pyongyang, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Aug. 21, 2015. (REUTERS/KCNA)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un placed his military on high alert and declared a "quasi-state of war' in areas near the country's border with South Korea Friday. The action took place after North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire near the border.

The Korean Central News Agency reported that Mr. Kim said frontline groups would 'enter a wartime state' starting at 5:00 p.m. local time Friday.

North Korea has made similar declarations in 2010 and 2013. The two Koreas are technically at war. The truce that ended the Korean War in the 1950s did not become a peace treaty.

North-South relations became strained

Tensions increased Thursday when North Korea fired artillery at South Korean military positions along the western border. The South responded by launching artillery rounds at the North. The artillery shells appeared to have fallen into the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, separating the two Koreas. Neither side reported damage or injuries.

North Korea's ambassador to China Ji Jae Ryong spoke to reporters late Friday in Beijing. He said "If the enemy ignores our warning it is inevitable that there will be action. Our army does not use empty words."

South Korean protesters with defaced portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shout slogans during an anti-North Korean rally in Seoul, Aug. 21, 2015.
South Korean protesters with defaced portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shout slogans during an anti-North Korean rally in Seoul, Aug. 21, 2015.

North-South relations became strained after South Korea accused the North of planting landmines that exploded this month near the border. Two South Korean soldiers were wounded. South Korea answered by restarting anti-North Korean broadcasts on loudspeakers near the border.

The North warned Thursday that it would take further military action if South Korea did not stop the broadcasts within 48 hours. South Korean officials have said the broadcasts would continue. And it has raised its military readiness alert to its highest level to indicate immediate danger, imminent attack or invasion.

Korea expert Daniel Pinkston is with the International Crisis Group in Seoul. He says neither side feels it can back down but neither side wants war either.

"I think that both sides want to avoid a high intensity conflict but nevertheless there's a possibility of miscalculation and inadvertent escalation.'

US says 'provocative actions' increase tensions

The United States Thursday said it was watching the situation closely. State Department spokesman John Kirby said that 'provocative actions' by the North only heighten tensions. He urged North Korea to refrain from actions and rhetoric that threaten peace and security in the area.

The latest tension also comes during annual joint military exercises that began Monday. North Korea condemns them as preparation for war. The exercises include South Korea, the U.S. and other allies including Britain, Canada and Australia.

Daniel Pinkston says having the multinational military presence on the Korean Peninsula might keep North Korea from acting but may also restrain South Korea.

Brian Padden and William Gallo reported this story. Mario Ritter adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

Words in This Story

quasi -adj. in some way or sense, but not in a true, direct or complete way

miscalculation -n. to make an error in judging something

inadvertent -adj. not meant or planned

escalation -n. to become worse or more severe; to become or make something higher

indicate -v. to show something; to direct attention to

朝鲜和韩国在边界附近相互炮击,朝鲜领导人金正恩声言,朝鲜军队正在为在前线地区与韩国对抗做准备,朝鲜军队处于高度戒备状态。

朝鲜官方通讯社说,金正恩是在朝鲜中央军事委员会星期五召开紧急会议之后发表以上谈话的。

韩国已经将军备等级提至最高,表明面临即刻危险和攻击。首尔还对进入朝鲜开城工业园区的人数进行了限制。

韩国统一部发言人郑浚熙说:"确保人员安全是最重要的,所以我们的立场是,应当把进出开城工业园区的人数降至最低,首先,允许那些可以当天返回首尔的人进去,其次,让那些与企业经营有直接关系的人离开。"

星期四,朝鲜炮击韩国西部边境的军事阵地,作为回应,韩国向朝鲜发射了数十枚155毫米炮弹。紧张局势升级。

双方都没有报告有人员伤亡。

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