North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has threatened to “wipe out” a South Korean island as Pyongyang came under new economic and diplomatic fire from US sanctions and UN charges of gross rights abuses.
On a visit to frontline military units on Monday, Kim briefed officers on their mission “to strike” Baengnyeong and turn the island into a “sea of fire”.
“Once an order is issued, you should break the waists of the crazy enemies, totally cut their windpipes and thus clearly show them what a real war is like,” Kim was quoted as saying by the Korean Central News Agency.
Military tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang have risen to their highest level for years, with the communist state threatening nuclear war in response to UN sanctions imposed after its third atomic test last month.
An administrative official on Baengnyeong, Kim Young-gu, said civilian emergency shelters on the island had been fully stocked and all village councils put on high alert.
“It’s not like there’s a mass exodus of panicked islanders to the mainland. But to be honest with you, we’re a bit scared,” he told the AFP news agency by telephone.
The disputed sea border off the west coast was the scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and 2009.
South Korea has also announced its unilateral abolition of the 60-year-old Korean War armistice and non-aggression pacts with Seoul in protest at a joint South Korean-US military exercise that began on Monday.