Officials dismissing North Korea's latest outburst

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March 30, 2013, 6:05 pm
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(NECN/NBC News: Ian Williams) - Not only did North Korea declare Saturday what it calls a "state of war", it said it will now deal with South Korea according to wartime regulations.

Now it's not exactly clear what that means since this peninsula has been in a technical state of war for 60 years, since there was never a formal peace treaty after the Korean War.

Officials in Seoul dismiss the latest outburst as more of the same.

It followed a massive rally in the northern capital on Friday where tens of thousands turned out in support of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's call to arms chanting, "Death to the U.S. imperialists."

Kim said earlier that the time had come to "settle accounts" with the U.S.

It followed a show of force when the U.S. sent B-2 bombers to participate in military drills over South Korea.

Kim has already scrapped the Korean War armistice and cut most hotlines across the heavily fortified DMZ. He has also ordered his missiles on standby to strike the U.S., South Korea, Guam and even Hawaii.

Experts doubt he has the ability to hit the U.S. and think it would be pretty suicidal to try. They believe a full-scale conflict is unlikely, but do worry about a more localized provocation, perhaps around disputed waters in the Yellow Sea where the North has been holding exercises.

There have been several clashes there in recent years, and when NBC News visited Friday, the South's most vulnerable island, just 10 miles from the North, was in a high state of alert.

Security officials believe Kim's main aim is to unite his people and force talks with the U.S. but fear he may be more reckless than his father, the late Kim Jong Il.

The big worry is that a local incident, be it a skirmish or a miscalculation, could quickly escalate.

Tags: South Korea, North Korea, Seoul, Korean War, Kim Jong Un, Ian Williams, North Korea state of war
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