The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has declared invalid the armistice of 1953 with South Korea, ending the truce between the countries, and has cut off the direct phone connecting the two governments.
"The U.S. has reduced the armistice agreement to a dead paper," declared the Supreme Command of North Korea's army, according to CNN. The isolated Pacific nation is blaming the U.S. and the U.N. for imposing tougher sanctions on the Kim Jong Un-led government after it carried out nuclear tests on February 12, defying international regulations.
North Korea has also cut off the direct phone link it had with its southern neighbor at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom, which served as an emergency line of communication between the two sides.
"We called at 9 a.m. and there was no response," a government official from South Korea said, according to Reuters.
A report by North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun added that its decision now allowed its army to carry out a "strike of justice at any target anytime, not bound to the armistice agreement and achieve the national reunification, the cherished desire of the Korean nation."
Although an official peace treaty was never signed, the 1953 armistice stopped military action and allowed for the two Korean nations to begin restoring basic diplomatic relations.
North Korea has repeatedly warned of attacking both the U.S. and South Korea in recent years, threatening to end the armistice both in 2003 and 2009 after the two nations it perceives as enemies participated in joint anti-proliferation plans.
Analysts have noted that it is difficult to ascertain what exactly North Korea will do and which of its many threats should be taken more seriously than others, but the army's decision to end the armistice with South Korea might be the clearest sign that it is preparing for war.
North Korea was responsible for the surprise attack on South Korea on June 25, 1950, which is what began the Korean War. As the United States rushed to defend the South, China joined the war on North Korea's side. Both Koreas suffered over a million deaths in the war, with the death toll reaching 600,000 for Chinese soldiers and 36,500 for Americans.
The Chinese government today attempts to serve as a moderator between North Korea and the rest of the world, and remains one of the only countries with generally positive diplomatic relations with the North.
Should a new war break out, the U.S. is likely to be drawn directly into the clash with its 28,500 troops stationed as part of a security alliance between the North and the South.