RECAP: North Korea puts troops on war footing as South rejects ultimatum to stop propaganda broadcasts
To recap on today's dramatic events:
put its troops on a war footing on Friday as South Korea rejected an ultimatum to stop propaganda broadcasts
or face military action, prompting China to voice concern and urge both sides to step back after an exchange of artillery fire.
North Korea's Foreign Ministry said the country's military and the public stood ready to safeguard its regime even if it meant fighting an all-out war, and rejected the idea of restraint in an apparent rebuff to China's call.
official media said its military was not bluffing, and the deputy North Korean ambassador to the United Nations, An Myong Hun, reiterated Pyongyang's threat of "strong military counter-action" if the South Korean broadcasts did not stop.
An also told reporters North Korea had asked the 15-member United Nations Security Council to hold an urgent meeting on the situation.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed for the Koreas not to take any action that could further aggravate tensions, but diplomats said there had been no discussion among Security Council members about holding a meeting.
South Korea rejected an ultimatum that it halt anti-Pyongyang broadcasts by Saturday afternoon or face attack.
It began blasting anti-North propaganda over the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the countries on Aug. 10, resuming a tactic both sides had stopped in 2004, a few days after landmines wounded two South Korean soldiers along the DMZ.
North Korea resumed its own broadcasts on Monday and on Thursday, according to Seoul, launched four artillery shells into South Korea in apparent protest at loudspeaker broadcasts. The South fired back 29 artillery rounds. Pyongyang accused the South of inventing a pretext to fire into the North.
The United States, which has 28,500 military personnel based in South Korea, said it had resumed its annual joint military exercises there after a temporary halt to coordinate with Seoul over the shelling from North Korea.
The annual exercise, code-named Ulchi Freedom Guardian, began on Monday and runs until next Friday.
North Korea regularly condemns the manoeuvres as a preparation for war and in the past has fired rockets into the sea while they proceeded.
South Korean Vice Defence Minister Baek Seung-joo said his government expected North Korea to fire at some of the 11 sites where Seoul has set up loudspeakers on its side of the DMZ.