Nightly News   |  March 29, 2013

South Korean island preps for war

Baengnyeong Island, home to 5,000 South Korean civilians, sits just 10 miles from the border with North Korea. Fearing an attack from the north, the island has become a fortress with fences, bomb shelters and mine fields. NBC’s Ian Williams reports.

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>>> good evening. on this good friday night as america heads into easter weekend , this nation's intelligence experts are trying to figure out how seriously to take the threats of the 28-year-old leader of north korea . untested, under threat, still new to the job he inherited from his father, if he's serious about what he's been saying about the u.s. and south korea , it's very bad news indeed, but figuring that part out is tricky. for now tensions are high, and today our own team reached a spot within sight of north korea itself, a south korean island where they can see the enemy and feel the current tension in the air. so we begin with our report from nbc's ian williams .

>> reporter: brian, this island is less than ten miles from the north. there have been clashes in this area before. and today they watched anxiously as north korea summoned thousands to pyongyang in support of kim jong -un's call to arms . tens of thousands turned out in north korea 's capital, chanting "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 yesterday's u.s. show of force reckless, b-2 stealth bombers in exercises over south korea and said the time had come to, quote, settle accounts with the u.s. state television reported that kim had ordered his forces on standby 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. the island is home to 5,000 south korean civilians and many soldiers. it sits just ten miles from the border. kim jong -un, reason seeseen recently peering at the island threatened to turn it into a sea of flames. so he was on that island there?

>> yes.

>> reporter: does that worry you? this man has lived here for 49 years. he's 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 all the rhetoric against the u.s., it's places like this which are most vulnerable. but any local skirmish or miscalculation could easily escalate. brian?

>> ian williams in south korea tonight just over the north korean border, as you saw.