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North Korea puts troops on war footing amid heightened tensions

North Korea puts troops on war footing amid heightened tensions
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North Korea is telling its front-line troops to prepare for war, on the heels of increased tensions over South Korea’s use of high-volume loudpeakers used to shout propaganda across the border.

According to North Korean state media, Pyongyang put the troops on war footing “to be fully battle ready” on Friday, after leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnOvernight Defense: Biden nets military family endorsements | Final debate features North Korea exchange | Judge refuses to dismiss sexual assault case against top general Biden: Obama wouldn't 'legitimize' North Korea with meeting How Trump and Biden contrast on foreign policy MORE hosted an expanded military commission meeting on Thursday.

The aggression, North Korea says, is part of an ultimatum demanding that South Korea turn off the blaring propaganda loudspeakers or else prepare for war. The South was given 48 hours to stop its “psychological warfare,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

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“The situation of the country is now inching close to the brink of a war due to the continued anti-[Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] political and military provocations by the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces,” KCNA claimed.

North Korea is known for saber-rattling with its southern neighbor — with which it has technically been at war since 1950 — and Kim has given similar orders in recent years, though no battles took place.

Friday’s tensions followed a brief exchange of artillery shells on Thursday.

South Korea accused the North of firing the first shells — which were apparently aimed at the loudspeakers that dot the two-mile wide demilitarized zone that serves as the globe’s most heated border — and then responded with a few dozen shells of its own.

No one was killed on either side in the brief confrontation.

The always-high tensions between the two Koreas has been on an upswing since two South Korean soldiers were seriously wounded by landmines in the demilitarized zone earlier this month.

Seemingly in response, South Korea began playing the loudspeakers last week for the first time in more than a decade, virtually assuring a strong reaction from the North.

On Monday, the U.S. and South Korea launched the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise, which drew swift condemnation from North Korea.

The United States has called for North Korea to back off of its bellicose rhetoric and reassured its support for its ally in the south.

“These kinds of provocative actions only heighten tensions, and we call on Pyongyang to refrain from actions and rhetoric that threaten regional peace and security,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday.

“The other thing I’d say is the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to the defense, the security of the peninsula, to our alliance with South Korea, and we’re going to continue to closely coordinate with the Republic of Korea.”

The two countries previous exchanged fire last October, as well as in 2010.