North Korea responded angrily on Monday to America’s sanctioning of dictator Kim Jong Un and to a planned joint deployment of a missile defense system with South Korea by severing diplomatic channels and announcing all U.S. detainees in the closed-off country would be treated according to “wartime law.”
North Korea’s military put out a statement that read, in part, Reuters reported: “There will be physical response measure from us as soon as the location and time that the invasionary tool for U.S. world supremacy, [missile defense] THAAD, will be brought into South Korea are confirmed. 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 move comes on the heels of last week’s U.S. imposition of additional sanctions on North Korea – and, for the first time ever, on Jong Un specifically – for human rights’ abuses. And it comes as the United States announced a plan to deploy an advanced missile defense system in South Korea, called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD.
Specifically, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency announced that the country would stop using the channel at the United Nations that’s set up for U.S. and Pyongyang’s diplomats to talk, since the two countries don’t have direct diplomatic relations.
Further, the state-run KCNA reported all U.S. citizens currently being detained in Pyongyang would be treated according to the rules of “wartime law,” various media outlets reported.
“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 reported. “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. 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.”
Two Americans are currently detained in Pyongyang. It’s not clear yet how these “wartime laws” would impact their fate. but in the past, North Korea has generally treated that label as a prohibition of release on humanitarian grounds, Reuters reported.
Technically, the United States and North Korea are still at war because the Korean War, 1950 to 1953, only ended in a truce.
Currently detained in North Korea is Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student sentenced to 16 years of hard labor for reportedly trying to steal an item that included a propaganda claim. Kim Dong Chul, meanwhile, a Korean-American, is also detained in the country, serving a 10-year sentence for what state media described as espionage.