N. Korean veteran: "I want to rain bullets on the enemy to my heart's content"
S. Korea: If North strikes, "we will respond in a more resolute ... manner"
The United States slaps fresh sanctions on North Korea
Global tensions heightened after the North reneged on a 60-year-old armistice
The 80-year-old North Korean war vet says he’s been holding onto a bullet he didn’t get to fire when his country declared a truce with its neighbor 60 years ago.
Now – if North Korean state media is to be believed – the man is itching to do so.
“I am still keeping a bullet that I failed to fire at a trench in the 1950s because the U.S. imperialists and their stooges signed an armistice agreement,” the man is quoted as saying in Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party.
“Send me to the trench. Give me a rifle. I want to rain bullets on the enemy to my heart’s content.”
Like him, the newspaper said, North Koreans across the country are begging to join the army after the United Nations slapped the country with new sanctions.
It’s the latest hyperbole coming out of the repressed country after the North reneged Monday on a 60-year-old armistice that had maintained an uneasy peace with South Korea since the Korean War in the 1950s.
“All people who can take rifle are petitioning to be allowed to join or rejoin the People’s Army in all provinces and towns,” the newspaper said.
For its part, South Korea said it’s keeping a close watch and making sure its combined forces with the United States are prepared for moves by the North.
“There are possibilities that these activities could lead to provocations,” defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-suk said.
If they do, he added, “We will respond in a more resolute and destructively manner.”
The ever-ratcheting war of words between the two sides reached new heights after Pyongyang scrapped the agreement and then followed it up by ignoring Seoul’s calls to a military hotline the two sides set up in 2004 to ease tensions.
‘An act of war’
North Korea said its decision was a direct response to the U.N. Security Council, which passed tougher sanctions against the country after it carried out a nuclear test last month.
The sanctions, North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party said, are “a declaration of war and an act of war.”
The United States followed the U.N.’s sanctions with its own Monday after North Korea scrapped the armistice agreement.
The new U.S. sanctions target North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank for its role in supporting the country’s weapons of mass destruction program, the Treasury Department said Monday.
The sanctions effectively cut the North’s primary foreign exchange bank off from the U.S. financial system.
‘Break the waists of … enemies’
Pyongyang is also furious at joint military drills taking place between the South and the United States. The annual training exercises are scheduled to last two months.
Leader Kim Jong Un lambasted the drills, taking place near the Korean peninsula.
“As the saying goes … a guy who is fond of playing with fire is bound to perish in flames” Kim told soldiers, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. “All the enemies quite often playing with fire in the sensitive hotspot should be thrown into a cauldron once I issue an order.”
“Once an order is issued,” Kim told the troops, “you should break the waists of the crazy enemies, totally cut their windpipes and thus clearly show them what a real war is like.”
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Pyongyang’s “bellicose rhetoric” has raised concerns – but won’t help the North’s situation.
“The DPRK will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in northeast Asia,” he said.