North Korea late on Friday said it will enter a “state of war” with South Korea, illustrating the escalating tensions between and its southern neighbor and the United States in recent weeks, according to state-run media.
“From this time on, the North-South relations will be entering the state of war and all issues raised between the North and the South will be handled accordingly,” said a statement from the state-run KCNA, according to Reuters. The statement was jointly issued by the ruling Communist Party, the government, and other groups.
Over the past several weeks, Pyongyang has been threatening the U.S. and South Korea after the two allies took part in joint drills in early March.
“Situations on the Korean Peninsula, which are neither in peace or at war, have come to an end,” reads another part of North’s statement, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
The statement referenced a meeting held by leader Kim Jong Un and military figures on Thursday in which he approved a plan to strike South Korean and U.S. targets, according to the news agency.
“We will first target and dissolve mainland United States, Hawaii and Guam, and United States military based in South Korea. And the (South Korean presidential office) will be burned to the ground,” KCNA said, according to CNN.
However, the impoverished, isolated country did not say it was launching an attack right away.
And few analysts think that North Korea would want to partake in an all-out war.
“The announcement made by North Korea is not a new threat, but part of follow-up measures after North Korea’s supreme command’s statement that it will enter the highest military alert” several days ago, said South Korea’s Unification Ministry in a statement, according to CNN.
On Friday, state media released a photo of Kim and his senior generals huddled in front of a map showing routes for envisioned strikes against cities on both American coasts. The map bore the title “U.S. Mainland Strike Plan.”
Portions of the photo appeared to be manipulated, though an intriguing detail — a bandage on Kim’s left arm — appeared to be real.
Experts believe the country is years away from developing nuclear-tipped missiles that could strike the United States. Many say they’ve also seen no evidence that Pyongyang has long-range missiles that can hit the U.S. mainland.
Still, there are fears of a localized conflict, such as a naval skirmish in disputed Yellow Sea waters. Such naval clashes have happened three times since 1999. There’s also the danger that such a clash could escalate. Seoul has vowed to hit back hard the next time it is attacked.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.