North Korea continued to increase tensions on 27 May 2009 after launching another short-range missile overnight. According to local media in South Korea, the North launched the ground-to-ship missile from the east coast of the country at approximately 2100 local time. Some officials believe that the North is attempting to prevent other governments from verifying the nuclear test that took place on 25 May.
In addition, North Korea warned South Korea of the possibility of a military attack after Seoul stated that it was joining the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative on 26 May, which Pyongyang views as a declaration of war. North Korea warned on 28 May that it could potentially intercept foreign warships if they attempted to stop, board or inspect its ships in the adjacent waters. Pyongyang also stated that it will no longer be bound by the 1953 armistice accord. In response to the increasing tensions, South Korea elevated its alert status on 28 May. The alert level for U.S. troops stationed in South Korea was also increased.
Comment: Reports indicate that day-to-day activities in South Korea are proceeding as normal despite North Korea’s hostile rhetoric and the increased alert level. The latest developments will likely not have a direct impact on travelers to South Korea at this time, as there are no indications that military conflict is immediate; however, there is an increased potential for limited naval engagements and border skirmishes in the near future.