Despite Pyongyang’s subsequent denials, South Korea said the North was behind the blasts and responded by resuming the propaganda broadcasts across the border — a practice both Koreas had ended by mutual consent in 2004.
The move outraged the North, which eventually issued its 48-hour ultimatum for the South to turn off the loudspeakers by Saturday afternoon, or face military action.
– Zero tolerance –
South Korea insists it will continue the broadcasts, and on Friday President Park Geun-Hye appeared on television, wearing army fatigues and telling top military commanders that further North Korean provocations “will not be tolerated.”
The situation is being closely watched, with UN chief Ban Ki-moon calling for restraint from both sides and the United States urging Pyongyang to avoid further escalation.
There are nearly 30,000 US troops permanently stationed in South Korea, and the Pentagon has reiterated its commitment to the defence of its ally.
A call for calm and restraint also came from China, the North’s main diplomatic protector and economic supporter.
Ties between Beijing and Pyongyang have become strained, and China will be keen to avoid any regional flare-up as it seeks to attract world leaders to Beijing next month for a three-day celebration of Japan’s defeat in World War II.