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(LEAD) S. Korea issues full alert for western border area

All Headlines 17:45 August 11, 2015

(ATTN: RECASTS lead; UPDATES throughout; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Aug. 11 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean military issued a full alert for the western border area, a government official said Tuesday, as the military steps up its defense posture after North Korea's mine blasting in the demilitarized zone escalated military tension between the countries.

As part of its counterattack for the North's bloody mine detonation on South Korean soldiers, the South Korean Defense Ministry resumed its anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasting in the western front-line area a day earlier.

Two South Korean staff sergeants were severely injured when landmines exploded in the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on Aug. 4.

A South Korean probe showed Monday that North Korea secretly buried the mines on the South Korean side in violation of the Armistice Agreement that prohibits acts of aggression in the DMZ.

In retaliation, the South Korean military resumed the loudspeaker campaign, a psychological warfare tactic dreaded by the North, in the Paju area.

"The top-notch alert was issued after resuming the loudspeaker broadcasting in the center-to-western front-line area after 5:00 p.m. yesterday," the Ministry of National Defense official said of the heightened defense posture.

The military is also reinforcing its artillery power to better react to unexpected provocations by North Korea, the official said, adding they are keeping close tabs on North Korean troop movement at the border.

The loudspeaker campaign, airing the latest news on South Korea and anti-Pyongyang messages, puts psychological pressure on North Korea, where the flow of outside information is tightly controlled.

Following the North's deadly torpedoing of the Navy ship Cheonan, South Korea had pledged to resume the border campaign in 2010.

The plan, however, was not put into action as the North threatened to shoot down the broadcasting facility.

As part of a mutual agreement in 2004, both Koreas stopped the anti-North loudspeaker campaign and other propaganda warfare at the border.

With the start of the loudspeaker campaign this time, South Korea will immediately return fire if North Korea shoots at the loudspeakers, the ministry official said.

"We can immediately retaliate in an emergency because we have stocked up our means of reconnaissance and artillery to monitor and retaliate against North Korea," the official said.

The military will also increase patrol and ambush operations in the DMZ and deforest the area in order to step up monitoring of any North Korean offense at the border, Defense Ministry Spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a press briefing.

"Various means and ways are being explored as alternatives (of retaliation) including the resumption of spreading anti-North propaganda leaflets (to the North Korean side)," Kim said after being asked about punitive actions for the mine provocation.

Defense Minister Han Min-koo pledged in a meeting with ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers earlier in the day that the military will carry out an operation to seize initiative in the demilitarized zone.


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