South Korea's Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn on Thursday ordered the military to strengthen its readiness posture for an "immediate" response to any North Korean provocation.
His remarks came amid growing concerns that the communist regime could conduct its sixth nuclear test or an intercontinental ballistic missile launch to mark the 85th anniversary of its army's creation next Tuesday.
Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn (right) speaks during a meeting with Cabinet ministers at the central government complex in Seoul on April 20, 2017. (Yonhap)
"I call on the military to keep close tabs on the possibility of North Korea's provocations and strengthen its (readiness) posture for an immediate response," he said during a regular meeting of Cabinet ministers on pending state affairs.
Pointing to Pyongyang's failed missile launch on Sunday and its menacing rhetoric, the acting president said that the reclusive state could engage in provocative acts again "at any time."
Tensions have been rising on the peninsula in recent weeks with the North seen preparing for a new nuclear test and the United States issuing a strong warning against its provocative behavior.
During his visit to Seoul earlier this week, US Vice President Mike Pence warned Pyongyang against testing America's "resolve," noting a set of military actions Washington recently took in Syria and Afghanistan.
On April 7, the US struck a Syrian air base to punish the Bashar al-Assad regime for a suspected chemical attack. Less than a week later, it dropped a massive bomb on an Islamic State complex in Afghanistan. Observers said these military steps sent an implicit message to the North. (Yonhap)