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(LEAD) N. Korean leader orders military to have full combat readiness

All Headlines 09:28 August 21, 2015

(ATTN: ADDS more details throughout)

SEOUL, Aug. 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered front-line troops to have full combat readiness against South Korea as he declared a "quasi-state of war," the North's state media said Friday, raising tension after both Koreas exchanged fire across the western border.

Kim convened an emergency meeting of the central military commission of the Workers' Party hours after the exchange of fire and ordered chief commanders to go to front-line troops to prepare for military operations, the North's Korean Central Television reported.

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

The exchange started when the North fired shells into a South Korean front-line military unit on Thursday afternoon, which prompted South Korean troops to counter with artillery fire. No casualties were reported.

Shortly after the shelling, North Korea issued a fresh threat to take military action if South Korea does not stop its anti-Pyongyang propaganda campaign.

The two Koreas have traded a war of words over the broadcasts that South Korea resumed on Aug. 10 in retaliation for a land mine attack earlier this month that left two South Korean soldiers severely injured.

South Korea accused the North of planting the mines inside the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas, a charge denied by North Korea.

North Korea has bristled at South Korea's propaganda campaign amid concern that an influx of outside information could pose a threat to its leader.

North Korea has threatened to carry out "indiscriminate strikes" on South Korea unless Seoul halts the broadcasts.

The North warned Thursday that it would take strong military action if the South does not end border propaganda broadcasts and dismantles the broadcast facilities "within 48 hours."

South Korea has ordered its military to be on top alert, vowing to sternly deal with any North Korean provocations.

The government also said it has taken measures to ensure the safety of its nationals who are temporarily staying in the North.

It said it will put a partial ban on the entry of its nationals into Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North where a total of 124 South Korean smaller firms are running factories with about 54,000 North Korean workers employed.

ejkim@yna.co.kr

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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