TODAY   |  March 30, 2013

North Korea declares ‘state of war’ on South Korea

Baengnyeong Island, which is home to 5,000 South Korean civilians and many soldiers, sits just ten miles from the North Korean border. Despite escalating tensions, most islanders seem determined to stay put while keeping an eye on their neighbors. NBC’s Ian Williams reports

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>>> start with the new threats by north korea . nbc's ian williams has the latest developments. he is near the border of north and south korea. ian, good morning.

>> reporter: lester, officials here in seoul have dismissed the latest outburst from the north as more of the same. but it follows days of escalating rhetoric culminating friday in a rally in the northern capital in support of the call to arms . tens of thousands turned out in north korea 's capital and chanted "death to the u.s. imperialists." north korean leader kim jong un presided over what was called an urgent meeting with military officials. he called thursday's u.s. show of force reckless. b-2, stealth bombers , and exercises over south korea , and said the time had come to, quote, settle accounts with the u.s. state television reported kim had ordered his forces on stand by to strike the u.s., south korea , guam, and hawaii. in one photo, targets appear to include austin, texas. experts doubt he has the ability to hit the u.s. but they fear a provocation here in the yellow sea , disputed waters where south korean ferries skirt around north korean territory. this island is home to 5,000 south korean civilians and many soldiers. it sits just ten miles from the border. kim jong un, seen recently peering at this island through binoculars, threatened to turn it into a sea of flames.

>> he was on that island there.

>> yes.

>> reporter: does that worry you? this man has lived here for 49 years and has heard the threats before, but never like this. the island is a fortress lined with fencing and mine fields . the fortifications stretch all the way down the coast here. 30- foot wide wall and on top layers of razor wire. locals say the army is tense. a network of underground bomb shelters is being made ready. these are all over the island and have been freshly stocked up with supplies. still, most islanders seem determined to stay while keeping a nervous eye on their neighbors to the north. in spite of the rhetoric against the u.s., it's places like that in the yellow sea which are most vulnerable. the danger is that in the current tense atmosphere the local skirmish or miscalculation could quickly escalate, lester.

>> ian williams in south korea this morning, thanks.