North Korea: Live updates as Kim Jong-un declares ‘state of war’ against the South

BY JOHN SHAMMAS, SAM WEBB

This live blog is now closed. To recap on today's dramatic events:
  • North and South Korea have  traded shots
  • Tensions continue to escalate
  • Deadline for South to cease playing 'anti-North Korea broadcasts' at border passes
  • Kim Jong-un claims he will launch attack
  • North Korea supporters warn: 'This could be nuclear war'
Continued to scroll down to recap on our live updates as they happened:  
9:24 am
Kim Jong-un 'to launch attack at 9.30am'
The world is holding its breath following Kim Jong-un's warning that North Korea's troops will attack the South at 9.30am. North Korea claimed it was 'fully ready for war' last night following an exchange of fire between the rival nations yesterday. South Korea fired a barrage of artillery rounds into North Korea after the North shelled across the border to protest against anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts. Pyongyang was urged to halt any "provocative" actions by Washington in the wake of the first exchange of fire between the two Korea's since last October. North Korea did not return fire but warned Seoul in a letter that it would take military action if the South did not stop the broadcasts along the border within 48 hours, the South's Defence Ministry said. In a separate letter, Pyongyang said it was willing to resolve the issue even though it considered the broadcasts a declaration of war, South Korea's Unification Ministry said. Follow our live blog for all the latest.

 
9:32 am
Will Kim Jong-un make good on his threat?
On August 19 last year, the North Korean government said in a statement: "If a war breaks out on the Korean peninsula, it will not be limited to the peninsula, and it is a matter of time that the strongholds of aggression and provocation will be reduced to ashes. "It is no empty word." We'll have to wait and see.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attends the Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang
Threats: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attends the Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang
 
9:40 am
Previous threat to turn South Korea into a 'sea of fire'
In another chilling statement, the North Korean government said it would turn South Korea's presidential Blue House into a 'sea of fire' in 2010. The statement read: "[...] The presidential Blue House and all headquarters of the puppet regime will be targeted. "Park Geun-Hye and her clique must find a painful lesson in the shameful defeat inflicted upon the South."
Park Geun-Hye
Facing attack? South Korean President Park Geun-Hye
 
9:54 am
What has caused the tension?
North Korea is demanding that the South halt broadcasts by loudspeakers on the border of the two nations that play what Kim Jong-un claims is anti-Pyongyang propaganda. What is concerning experts however is the specificity of North's ultimatum, demanding that by 9.30am UK time the broadcasts cease. "The fact that both sides' shells didn't damage anything means they did not want to spread an armed clash," said Yang Moo-jin, professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. "There is always a chance for war - but that chance is very, very low,"
Kim Jong Un
A chance for war? Kim Jong-un has made a threat to attack this morning
 
9:59 am
Deadline to stop 'anti-North Korea broadcasts' passes
The ultimatum given to South Korea to cease playing 'anti-North Korea broadcasts' from loudspeakers at the border has now passed. South Korean government officials have said in a statement that the broadcasts with NOT cease, meaning an outbreak of fighting is possible. The world now waits to see if Kim Jong-un will make good on his threat to launch an attack.
North Korea
Attack? Kim Jong-Un during an emergency meeting of the powerful Central Military Commission
 
10:06 am
'Someone has to blink here'
John Delury, a North Korea expert at Yonsei University in Seoul, has spoken out about this morning's threat. He said: "North Korea is a constant font of generalised threats, but putting a time stamp on it is a little bit different. "It puts both Seoul and Pyongyang's necks on the chopping board. "Someone has to blink here."
North Korea
Getting ready: A South Korean soldier sets a barricade on the road leading to North Korea's Kaesong joint industrial complex at a military checkpoint in the border city of Paju
 
10:12 am
South Korean defence chief: 'We expect North to attack'
South Korean Vice Defence Minister Baek Seung-joo has now said that he expects the North to launch an attack this morning. He said: "There is a high possibility that North Korea will attack loudspeaker facilities." The deadline to cease the 'anti-North Korea' broadcasts passed at 9.30am UK time.
North Korea
Conflict: South Korean conservative activists hold placards showing portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un during a rally denouncing North Korea's rocket firing
 
10:22 am
International Crisis Group: 'There is a large US military presence in threatened South Korea'
The International Crisis Group think tank has confirmed that there is a large US military presence in South Korea right now, as it braces for an attack from the North. Daniel Pinkston, from the group, has said it is hoped the presence will reduce the risk of escalation between the rival nations. He added: "This is a bad time to pick a fight with the South while it has all these resources there." The US troops are said to be in the threatened country carrying out military exercises.
Kim Jong Un
Getting ready for war? Kim Jong-un climbs a flight of stairs to board a plane
 
10:31 am
South Korea 'will retaliate' to any attack this morning
Fears are now mounting that North Korea's threat could lead to a war between the rival nations. A South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman has said this morning that Seoul would retaliate strongly to any North Korean action. The 9.30am deadline for the South to cease playing 'anti-North Korea broadcasts' at the border between North and South has passed, with South Korea bracing itself for an attack.
North Korea and South Korea
Lookout: A South Korean soldier looks through binoculars as they patrol on the South Korea-controlled island of Yeonpyeong near the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea
 
10:40 am
'Bombastic' statements being read on North Korean television
Morten Traavik, a Norwegian who organised a two-show visit to Pyongyang by Slovenian avant-garde rock band Laibach, has told of the bizarre news reports being shown to the people of North Korea during this worrying time. He said: "There have of course been news bulletins on North Korean television announcing the North Korean military's pretty bombastic statements." The South has confirmed this morning that it expects an attack from the North.
North Korea and South Korea
Getting ready? A South Korean K-1 tank moves over a temporary bridge during a river-crossing military drill in Hwacheon, near the border with North Korea
 
10:51 am
South Korea: 'North is showing signs of preparing Scud missiles'
Officials in the South Korean government are claiming that North Korea is showing signs of preparing Scud missiles. A source told the Yonhap news agency: "The North is showing signs of deploying a Scud missile near Wonsan and a Rodong missile in the North Pyeongan Province. "It seems that [the North] is weighing the timing of the firing under its strategic intention to increase military tension on the Korean Peninsula to the highest level."

11:22 am
South Korea: 'Scud missiles are aiming for 11 sites'
The Scud middles that South Korea believe the North is preparing to launch this morning will target 11 sites, according to intelligence sources in the South. Locations where loudspeakers are situated on the Southern side of the border will be targeted after the North accused its rival of broadcasting 'anti-North Korea propaganda'. South Korea has confirmed that it expects to be attacked, and insists that it will retaliate.
North Korea
Protest: South Korean conservative activists burn an effigy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un
 
11:41 am
UK Foreign Office update travel advice as tension increases
The UK Foreign Office has updated its travel advice to Brits hoping to travel to South Korea following an increase in tensions between the country and North Korea. On its website the government body notes an "exchange of artillery fire in the Demilitarised Zone" - referring to yesterday's flash of hostility. It warns: "The level of tension on the Korean peninsula can change with little notice" and also notes "a low threat from terrorism".
South Korean soldier removing loud speakers in the Demilitarized Zone
Loudspeakers: A South Korean soldier tends to the speakers which triggered the current conflict
 
12:00 pm
'This could be nuclear war'
Kim Myong-chol, the executive director of The Centre for North Korea-US Peace - a body which sympathises with Kim Jong-un based in Japan - has warned of nuclear war. He said: "The North does not want a war, but South Korea and the US want war. So we will destroy their forces in an instant". Earlier we told you how US troops are on the ground in South Korea. He added: "It depends on the situation and the reactions of South Korea and the US, but it could be a nuclear war. The choice is up to the Americans".
Kim Jong Un
Ready for nuclear war? Kim Jong-un poses with his generals
 
12:14 pm
What we know so far
  1. South Korea was told to stop playing anti-North Korean 'propaganda' from loudspeakers on the border last night
  2. North Korea gave the South a 9.30am UK time deadline, which has now passed
  3. The South has refused to remove the loudspeakers
  4. Kim Jong-un could now be preparing for nuclear war, according to supporters
  5. South Korea has said it expects an attack
A man from an anti-North Korea and conservative civic group raises his fist in front of a banner
Campaigners: A man from an anti-North Korea and conservative civic group raises his fist in front of a banner
 
12:48 pm
Japan's message to North Korea: 'Stop provocative acts'
Japan has strong concerns over North Korea's firing of shots across the border at South Korea, the government's chief spokesman said on Friday. "North Korea should exercise self-restraint in making provocative acts," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

 
12:56 pm
South Korea: 'We will strike North back with force'
South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo has promised this afternoon to hit back against North Korea, should Kim Jong-un decide to strike. Han said: "If North Korea pushes ahead with additional provocations, our military will retaliate harshly and make them pay a bitter price. "Anti-North loudspeaker broadcasts constitute due countermeasures we took in response to the North's mine provocations. "Our military will make all-out efforts in ensuring public safety and keep the public well-informed of all the developments that will take place."
A South Korean soldier talks on a radio as he sits on a military vehicle at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Yeoncheon
On alert: A South Korean soldier talks on a radio as he sits on a military vehicle at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Yeoncheon
 
1:05 pm
Full story: Expert close to Kim Jong-un warns of nuclear war
The conflict between North and South Korea 'could go nuclear' according to an expert close to Kim Jong-Un's regime. As the executive director of The Centre for North Korea-US Peace, Kim Myong-chol acts as an unofficial spokesman for the regime. You can read our full story on his insight into the nuclear threat here.

 
1:28 pm
United Nations following Korea conflict 'with serious concern'
The United Nations has said in a statement that it is monitoring the situation on the Korean peninsula "with serious concern". And US State Department spokeswoman Katrina Adams said: "The United States remains steadfast in its commitments to the defense and its allies, and will continue to coordinate closely with the ROK." South Korea has said it expects the North to fire Scud missiles on its territory.
Kim Jong Un
Pending attack? Kim Jong-un guides the "2015 combat aeronautics contest of air commanding officers of the Air and Anti-Air Force of the Korean People's Army" at Kalma Airport
 
1:33 pm
North Korea vs South Korea - how warring nation's armies compare
If you've ever wondered who spends the most on its army between the North and South, you may find this graphic interesting. It also reveals which nation spends the most on its military forces. Take a look.
Korea How the Military Forces Compare
 
1:43 pm
North Korean troops waiting for 'an order of attack'
North Korea has released a statement following this morning's rise in tension and threats of conflict. The North's Korean Central News Agency said in an English-language release: "The Korean People's Army (KPA) front-line large combined units entered into a wartime state all at once, fully armed to launch surprise operations, and wound up their preparedness for action." According to the statement, troops are waiting for "an order of attack".
North Korea and South Korea
Ready for action: South Korean soldiers checking a military iron fence in the border city of Paju near the demilitarized zone dividing the two Korea's
 
1:58 pm
Watch inspirational North Korea escapee share her horror
This video - shared by One Young World - shows an incredible, emotional speech from Yeomni Park discussing her quest for freedom as she escaped from North Korea. In the speech, she tells of the terror she endured living there. It gives just a taste of what life would be like living under Kim Jong-un's regime.
 
2:28 pm
China joins US and UN in sharing 'deep concerns' over conflict
China is "deeply concerned" about the state of affairs on the Korean Peninsula, the Chinese foreign ministry has said this afternoon. Spokeswoman Hua Chunying called for the parties involved to cease any actions that may escalate tensions on the peninsula and for the maintenance of calm and restraint. The US, UN and Japan have also urged both North and South Korea to avoid military conflict.
Kim Jong Un
Conflict: The private aircraft of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un flying before the Pyongyang skyline in February
 
2:43 pm
Pictured: US troops mobilise in South Korea
These images show US troops on the move in South Korea. Earlier today the International Crisis Group think tank confirmed that there is a large US military presence in South Korea right now. Daniel Pinkston, from the group, said: "This is a bad time to pick a fight with the South while it has all these resources there."
US troops' vehicles mobilized in the South Korean town of Paju bordering North Korea
On the move: US troops' vehicles mobilized in the South Korean town of Paju bordering North Korea
US troops in a truck in the South Korean town of Paj
On hand: US troops in a truck in the South Korean town of Paj
 
3:52 pm
What are North Korea's Scud missiles?
Originally based on a Soviet design, Scud missiles have been exported all over the world. It is a tactical ballistic missile designed for short-range battlefield use. Warheads can include conventional high explosive, chemical, biological, or nuclear warheads. North Korea obtained its first Scuds from Egypt in 1979 or 1980, according to the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. These missiles were reverse engineered, and then manufactured by the Stalinist nation. The first prototypes were completed in 1984, and named Hwasong-5. The design has been updated over the past three decades, culminating in the Rodong, or Nodong missile which has a range of 1000 km, giving the North Koreans the ability to strike Japan.
North Korea missile range map
North Korea missile range map
 
4:03 pm
South Korea refuses to back down
In the past, North Korea has used small-scale attacks, such as the sinking of the South Korean frigate Cheonan and artillery attacks on Yeonpyeong island in 2010, to keep up pressure on the South. As a result of criticism of the South Korean response to these provocations, the military has since taken a far more aggressive stance towards Pyongyang. It is determined to respond to any attack by North Korea with a much larger military response targeting the units that fire on them.
An unexploded shell fired from North Korea is seen on Yeonpyeong Island (Pic:Reuters)
Bombarded: An unexploded shell fired from North Korea is seen on Yeonpyeong Island
 
4:16 pm
Footage shows two Koreas opening fire
The frightening firepower that the two Koreas possess has been laid bare in footage posted online. Both the communist DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and democratic ROK (Republic of Korea) are heavily militarised, having technically been at war for decades. The footage claims to show the recent exchange of fire between the two rivals, although this could not be verified. The video footage shows warships launching missiles, amphibious tanks launching shells and massed artillery, apparently close to the DMZ.

 
4:50 pm
Fears over Kim Jong Un's grasp of power and South Korean response
John Delury, a professor at Seoul’s Yonsei University, has expressed concern over both Kim Jong Un's grasp of the escalating situation and the South Korean sabre-rattling response to the North's artillery fire. He told The Diplomat: "Kim Jong Un is still relatively new to the game of bringing tensions right up to the cliff and then pulling back; on top of that, there are legitimate questions about how well he controls all the levers, especially given the chronic reshuffling in the North Korean military and party hierarchy since he assumed power." He added: "South Korea adopted a ‘disproportional response’ theory of deterrence after the artillery battle on Yeonpyeong island in 2010. Thus, in response to four shells over the DMZ by the North, the South hit back with three dozen."

 
5:10 pm
'No one wants war'
An expert on inter-Korean relations says a full-scale conflict between North and South Korea benefits neither side. "Nothing can be guaranteed at this moment," Lee Ho Chul, a political science professor at Incheon National University in South Korea, told Bloomberg. "But neither side wants a clash to escalate because Kim can’t afford to fight joint US-South Korean forces and Park (South Korean President Park Geun-hye) can’t afford to let the economy be shaken."

 
5:54 pm
Ban Ki-moon urges calm
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed on Friday for North Korea and South Korea not to take any action that could further escalate tensions today. Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, was deeply concerned by the latest developments, said U.N. spokeswoman Eri Kaneko. "He urges the parties to refrain from taking any further measures that might increase tensions," Kaneko said. "He also calls on parties to engage in dialogue to reduce tensions and to promote peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula."
RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE / NO ARCHIVE
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivering a speech during the memorial service
 
6:08 pm
US and South Korea temporarily halt military exercise
The United States and South Korea have taken a "pre-scheduled pause" in an annual military exercise, a US official said on Friday as tensions rose between the two Koreas. "It's a pre-scheduled pause," the official said on condition of anonymity, adding that it was "common practice" in such long exercises to stop them temporarily and examine lessons learned. Earlier, a Pentagon spokesman said the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise carried out by South Korean and US Combined Forces began on Monday and would conclude on August 28.  
7:03 pm
More on halted military exercise
David Shear, assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, said: "That exercise was suspended temporarily, I believe the day before yesterday, in order to allow the US side to coordinate with the South Korean side on the... exchange of artillery." "That exercise has resumed as planned." North Korea fired four artillery rounds into South Korea on Thursday, according to Seoul, in apparent protest against proaganda broadcasts. The South fired back 29 artillery rounds.  
7:19 pm
UN military authority attempted talks with North Korea
The United Nations Command (UNC) has approached North Korea to discuss and hopefully defuse the growing crisis, it has been reported. The UNC, the unified command structure for the multinational military forces supporting South Korea, sent a message to North Korea yesterday, according to a military source who spoke to Yonhap news agency. "The UNC has called for North Korea to refrain from worsening the situation on the peninsula as the North's firing of artillery shells is a serious violation of the armistice agreement," the source said. "It has proposed to have a working-level dialogue to prepare for general-level talks." The North has not yet responded to the proposal, it added.
US troops in a truck in the South Korean town of Paj
US troops in a truck in the South Korean town of Paj
 
7:56 pm
South Korean president: "We can never tolerate any North Korean provocations"
President Park Geun-hye ordered South Korea's military to thoroughly retaliate against North Korea if the dictatorship fires more shots, an official told Yonhap. "We can never tolerate any North Korean provocations that could endanger the safety of our soldiers and people," Park said during a surprise visit to the headquarters of the Third Army near Seoul. North Korea fired four artillery rounds into South Korea on Thursday, according to Seoul, in apparent protest against propaganda broadcasts. The South fired back 29 artillery rounds.
South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye
South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye
 
8:56 pm
More background
Seoul resumed its loudspeaker campaign with anti-Pyongyang propaganda on August 10 in retaliation for the North's land mine explosion on August 4 in the 4-kilometre-wide demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas. Earlier, the United Nations Command - the military authority that coordinates South Korean and multinational troops - proposed talks with North Korea to discuss the mine blasts that seriously injured two South Korean soldiers. This offer rejected by the North. The two Koreas remain technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
9:23 pm
North Korean ambassador speaks at UN press conference
Ambassador An Myong Hun of Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has spoken at a UN press conference to outline his nation's stance on the "grave situation" on the Korean Peninsula. He claims the South Korea and the US started the confrontation as part of a "pre-fabricated provocation plot" against North Korea. He also claims that South Korea fired 36 artillery shells after one shell landed in South Korea, without verifying where the shell came from. He added: "Psychological warfare (referring to the South Korean loudspeakers) against the DPRK is in essence an open act of war against it."
 
10:27 pm
'A harsh and bitter price'
South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo tried to reassure a jittery public tonight, vowing a harsh counterattack against any further provocations by North Korea. "If North Korea pushes ahead with additional provocations, our military will retaliate harshly and make them pay a bitter price," Han said in a statement addressed to the public. South Korea and the United States are now operating their joint combat system, which will deter North Korea's additional provocations, the defense minister stressed  
11:36 pm
RECAP: North Korea puts troops on war footing as South rejects ultimatum to stop propaganda broadcasts
To recap on today's dramatic events: North Korea 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. North Korea's 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.

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