North Korea says issues with US to be resolved by war-time laws
The decision has been reported by the state KCNA news agency and spells potentially bad news for two American citizens who are being held by the North. The pair was jailed after being convicted of crimes against the state.
"The Republic will handle all matters arising between us and the United States from now on under our wartime laws, and the matters of Americans detained are no exception to this,” KCNA reported, as cited by Reuters.
In the past, the North has indicated that wartime laws would mean that detainees would not be released on humanitarian grounds.
North Korea is resorting to wartime laws to deal with the US in response to Washington’s newly-introduced sanctions against Kim and other North Korean officials. The sanctions froze any property held by the North Koreans within US jurisdiction and prohibited US citizens or entities from engaging in transactions with them, the US Treasury Department said.
"As the United States will not accept our demand for the immediate withdrawal of the sanctions measure, we will be taking corresponding actions in steps," KCNA said.
"As the first step, we have notified that the New York contact channel that has been the only existing channel of contact will be completely severed," it said.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry had previously warned that the sanctions were the “the worst hostile act” possible and “an open declaration of war,” and the North would retaliate with the “toughest countermeasures.”
“What the US did this time, not content with malignantly slandering the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is the worst crime that can never be pardoned,” it added.
North Korea’s military also stated that it would make a “physical response” to an agreement by the US to deploy a high-tech antiballistic-missile system, THAAD, to its ally South Korea “as soon as possible.”
THAAD, which stands for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, is used to intercept short, medium and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The agreement between Seoul and Washington ends five months of negotiations that started hours after North Korea claimed to have successfully launched an earth observation satellite into orbit in February.
"There will be physical response measures from us as soon as the location and time that the invasionary tool for US world supremacy, THAAD, will be brought into South Korea are confirmed," the North's military said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency, as cited by Reuters.
"It is the unwavering will of our army to deal a ruthless retaliatory strike and turn (the South) into a sea of fire and a pile of ashes the moment we have an order to carry it out," the statement added.
Washington’s decision to beef-up Seoul’s defenses brought a cautious response from Moscow, which said the US’ actions in Asia and the Pacific undermine the existing global security balance.
“From the very beginning of the discussion of this issue we have consistently and invariably pointed at the most dangerous consequences of such a decision and called for our partners not to make this wrong choice. Unfortunately, our calls have remained unheard,” a Foreign Ministry statement released on Friday reads.
China was similarly critical of the move with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying that THAAD exceeded the security needs of the Korean peninsula, and suggested there was a "conspiracy behind this move."
However, South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye said the THAAD missile defense system was not intended to target any third country and was only meant to counteract the potential threat from Pyongyang.
"I'm certain the international community knows full well that we have no intention whatsoever to target any other country or threaten them," Park said.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry says that a site for THAAD could be found within weeks and that the system could become operational by the end of 2017.