Prime Minister Tony Abbott has visited the “tensest border on earth”, stepping into North Korean territory and facing off with soldiers from the rogue state.
Mr Abbott on Wednesday took his tough talk on Pyongyang to the next level, inspecting first-hand the demilitarised zone dividing the two Koreas.
The zone feels far from demilitarised, with claymore mines, armed sentry towers and razor-wire fences dotting the no-man’s land between the enemy neighbours.
Standing in T2 – a blue building straddling the border of both countries – Mr Abbott had a close encounter with the soldiers defending the isolated regime ruled by Kim Jong-un.
The prime minister crossed briefly onto North Korean soil, as curious troops – some snapping pictures – peered through the windows at the foreign leader.
“It is quite a place, isn’t it?” Mr Abbott remarked.
The next stop was “checkpoint 3”, a watchtower surrounded by North Korea on three sides.
Mr Abbott, staring out at the no man’s land stretching out to the north, reflected on the war that led to the split at the 38th parallel.
He remembered the 17,000 diggers who served in the Korean War – and mourned the 400 who died – before thanking those who continued to defend the border.
“This is probably the tensest border on earth,” he said.
“On the South Korean side we have freedom, we have justice, we have democracy.
“On the North Korean side, we have an outlaw state which is a threat to world peace and a deadly danger to the people of South Korea.”
The prime minister has ramped up the rhetoric against North Korea during his visit to Seoul, personally assuring President Park Geun-hye that Australia stands by its friend in the region.
The north and south are still officially at war, and Mr Abbott’s visit to the disputed border comes at time of heightened military tension on the Korean peninsula.
Both sides fired hundreds of artillery rounds into each other’s territorial waters during a marine spat two weeks ago, just a day after Pyongyang provocatively launched a series of missile tests.