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N. Korea declares "quasi-state of war"

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Politics
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South Korean and U.S. forces were cooperating closely to respond firmly to North Korea's shelling, Thursday, and possible additional provocations under a joint operational plan, South Korean officials said Friday

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered border troops to maintain full combat readiness against the South, Friday, threatening to launch another attack over the weekend.

Kim held an emergency meeting of chief commanders and told them to enter "a quasi-state of wartime" and prepare for military operations, the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

"Commanders of the Korean People's Army were hastily dispatched to front-line troops to command military operations to destroy psychological warfare tools if the enemy does not stop propaganda broadcasts within 48 hours, and prepare against the enemy's possible counteractions," the state-run media reported.

Sources said the North may also test-fire missiles in a few days.

"The North is showing signs of preparing a Scud missile near Wonsan and a Rodong missile in North Pyeongan Province," a source said based on analysis of joint radar information with the United States.

The North is weighing the timing of any launch, and is likely to launch another military attack in the near future.

"There is the possibility of North Korea launching provocations of a certain kind after 5:00 p.m. (Saturday)," Defense Minister Han Min-koo said, citing the deadline the North set for its demand to stop loudspeaker propaganda along the border.

South Korean and U.S. forces were cooperating closely to respond firmly to North Korea's shelling, Thursday, and possible additional provocations under a joint operational plan, South Korean officials said Friday.

"Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Choi Yun-hee and U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti have shared information on the current situation," a defense ministry official said. "The joint operational plan is a response to the North's attack a day earlier."

Under the contingency plan, the U.S. 210th Fire Brigade, which has high-tech weaponry including the M270A1 multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) for counter-fire missions against the North's multiple rocket systems, is ready to support South Korean troops.

Considering escalating tensions on the border, the allies also may utilize troops that are now participating in joint live firing drills in deterring North Korea, the official said.

The drills feature the South's K-2 tanks, K-21 armored vehicles, Surion multipurpose helicopters and FA-50 light attack planes, and U.S. Bradley fighting vehicles, Apache helicopters and A-10 tank killers.

The measures came after the leaders of the two Koreas ordered front-line troops to be combat-ready following the brief exchange of fire along the western border. According to the South Korean military, the North fired a shot using a 14.5 mm anti-aircraft gun and three shots using 76.2 mm artillery guns over the border Thursday afternoon. Soon after, the South's 155 mm self-propelled howitzers responded by firing 29 shells into North Korea.

The two Koreas later said no casualties or property damage were reported.

President Park Geun-hye made an unscheduled visit to the headquarters of the Third Army in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province to ensure military readiness and encourage troops, Cheong Wa Dae said.

She praised the military on its immediate response to the North's shelling.

"The military should respond firmly to North Korean provocations. Its duty is to ensure the safety of people," Park said during a briefing about the military's countermeasures against the shelling and movement of North Korean soldiers.

Park visited the base after cancelling her previously arranged schedule because she is taking the latest situation between the two Koreas seriously, according to presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook.

The South resumed propaganda broadcasting -- to which the North has reacted sensitively -- on Aug. 10 for the first time in 11 years in retaliation for the North's landmine attack in the demilitarized zone that maimed two South Korean soldiers on Aug. 4.

South Korean military vowed to retaliate against any attacks from the North.

"South Korea will strongly retaliate against any kind of North Korean attacks and the North will have to take all the responsibility for such retaliatory action," the ministry said in a notice, delivered through a cross-border telephone channel to the North.

The ministry also issued a warning saying that the shelling was a clear violation of the armistice and non-aggression agreement.

Amid soaring tensions, the unification ministry decided to limit the entry of Korean citizens into the Gaeseong Industrial Complex in the North to businessmen.

"Among businessmen directly involved in the operation of factories there, those who can enter and leave the complex within a day are allowed to visit the industrial zone," a unification ministry official said.