Seoul: Tensions on the Korean peninsula soared on Tuesday as South Korea resumed propaganda broadcasts into North Korea in retaliation for the deadly sinking of a warship, while the North`s leader reportedly has ordered troops ready for combat.
The South`s restarting of psychological warfare operations was among measures it announced on Monday, along with slashing trade, to punish Pyongyang for the March torpedo strike that sank a navy warship and killed 46 sailors.
The US has thrown its full support behind South Korea`s moves to retaliate, which also include bringing North Korea before the UN Security Council. China — North Korea`s main ally and aid provider and a veto-wielding member of the Security Council — has so far done little but urge calm on all sides.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was in Beijing conferring with officials on a coordinated response. China`s top nuclear envoy, meanwhile, huddled with South Korean officials in Seoul.
South Korea`s military resumed radio broadcasts airing Western music, news and comparisons between the South and North Korean political and economic situations late Monday, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The military also planned to launch propaganda leaflets on Tuesday to inform North Koreans about the ship sinking.
In coming weeks, South Korea also will install dozens of propaganda loudspeakers and towering electronic billboards along the heavily armed land border between the two Koreas to send messages enticing communist soldiers to defect to the South.
The action, which ends a six-year suspension, is expected to draw an angry response from North Korea. The country`s military already warned on Monday it would fire at any propaganda facilities installed in the Demilitarised Zone.
A North Korean monitoring group said on Tuesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il last week ordered his 1.2 million-member military to get ready for combat, shortly after South Korea officially blamed his regime for the March 26 sinking of its warship Cheonan.
Seoul-based North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, citing unidentified sources in North Korea, said in a report that the order was read by Gen O Kuk Ryol, a Kim confidant, and broadcast on loudspeakers throughout the country on Thursday, hours after the multinational report blaming Pyongyang was issued in Seoul.