SEOUL (AFP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has issued a detailed threat to "wipe out" a small South Korean island in a further escalation of already elevated military tensions on the Korean peninsula.
In a visit Monday to border artillery units, Kim identified Baengnyeong Island on the South side of the disputed maritime frontier as a priority target in the event of conflict.
The visit coincided with the launch of a joint South Korea-US military drill that has prompted Pyongyang to announce the scrapping of the 60-year-old Korean War armistice, along with non-aggression pacts signed with the South.
The North has also threatened nuclear strikes on the United States and South Korea as a reprisal for UN sanctions imposed over its third nuclear test last month.
While most of these statements have been dismissed as rhetorical bluster, the threat to Baengnyeong, which has 5,000 civilian residents as well military units, is highly credible and carries the weight of precedent.
In 2010, the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan was sunk in the area of Baengnyeong with the loss of 46 lives, and later the same year North Korea shelled the nearby island of Yeonpyeong, killing four people.
Kim Jong Un's warning, reported Tuesday by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), was notable for its detail and hostility, as he briefed artillery officers on turning the island into "a sea of flames".
"He told the commander to photograph enemy positions engulfed in flames during a battle and send pictures to the Supreme Command," KCNA said "Once an order is issued, you should break the waists of the crazy enemies, totally cut their windpipes and thus clearly show them what a real war is like," Kim said.
Priority targets on the island included radar posts, Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers, 130mm multiple rocket stations and 150mm self-propelled howitzer batteries, Kim said.
An administrative official on Baengnyeong, Kim Young Gu, said civilian emergency shelters on the island had been fully stocked and all village councils put on high alert.