North Korea has declared that it is entering a “state of war” with South Korea today, according to its official news agency.
The nation's leadership also warned any skirmish will "develop into an all-out war, a nuclear war."
The North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) made the announcement in the early hours of this morning, after a joint statement by the North Korean government, ruling party and other organisations.
"From this time on, the North-South relations will be entering the state of war and all issues raised between the North and the South will be handled accordingly”, the KCNA announced.
"The long-standing situation of the Korean peninsula being neither at peace nor at war is finally over.”
"Now that the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) have entered into an actual military action, the inter-Korean relations have naturally entered the state of war."
Provocations "will not be limited to a local war, but develop into an all-out war, a nuclear war," the statement said.
Hours after the statement, Pyongyang threatened to shut down the jointly run Kaesong industrial park, angered by reports that the complex remained open because it was a source of hard currency for the impoverished North.
"If the puppet group seeks to tarnish the image of the DPRK even a bit, while speaking of the zone whose operation has been barely maintained, we will shut down the zone without mercy," an identified spokesman for the North's office controlling Kaesong said in comments carried by KCNA.
South Korea's Unification Ministry, whose aim is the reunification of the fractured peninsula, responded by calling the North Korean threat "unhelpful" to the countries' already frayed relations and vowed to ensure the safety of hundreds of South Korean managers who cross the border to their jobs in Kaesong.
South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said the country's military remains mindful of the possibility that increasing North Korean drills near the border could lead to an actual provocation.
He said: "The series of North Korean threats — announcing all-out war, scrapping the cease-fire agreement and the non-aggression agreement between the South and the North, cutting the military hotline, entering into combat posture No. 1 and entering a 'state of war' — are unacceptable and harm the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula."
"We are maintaining full military readiness in order to protect our people's lives and security."
The announcement came amid growing concerns regarding North Korea’s increasingly aggressive attitude.
Just yesterday the nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un, publicly ordered that missiles be prepared to strike at targets, including the United States mainland.
Meanwhile, a holiday tour operator from Wigan said yesterday that he had received an email warning him and his clients to stay out of North Korea.
Dylan Harris, 34, said that the email warned the situation had become “critical, with the outbreak of war probably only hours away".
Despite North Korea’s increasingly hostile behaviour, few people believe that the country would risk starting an all-out war.
Analysts say the threats are instead aimed at drawing Washington into talks that could result in aid and boosting leader Kim Jong-un's image at home.
Technically, North Korea and South Korea have been at war for the last sixty years, as the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice rather than a formal peace treaty.
However, earlier this month, North Korea said that it would no longer be bound by the truce, in protest again South Korea’s engagement in joint military exercises with the United States.