North Korea in threat of war to South over first strike warning
North Korea threatened South Korea with war yesterday as relations between the two nations worsened.
North Korea said there could be war "at any moment".
The North's military commanders described South Korea's promise of a "pre-emptive" strike in the event of an imminent nuclear attack from Pyongyang as an "open declaration of war".
The bellicose statement by the North was issued as China and the United States began work to restart nuclear disarmament talks stalled since April last year.
The North's General Staff of the Korean People's Army said a promise of a pre-emptive strike by the South Korean defence minister last week had created a "grave situation" which could lead to war "at any moment".
"They (the North Korean armed forces) will take prompt and decisive military actions against any attempt of the South Korean puppet authorities... and blow up the major targets including the commanding centre," said the statement carried by the Central News Agency.
"Our revolutionary armed forces will regard the scenario for 'pre-emptive strike,' which the South Korean puppet authorities adopted as a 'state policy,' as an open declaration of war," the General Staff of the Korean People's Army said.
The North's warning came in response to the South Korean Defence Minister Kim Tae-young's remarks last week that the South should launch a pre-emptive strike on North Korea if there was a clear indication the country was preparing a nuclear attack.
A South Korean defence spokesman, Won Tae-jae, dismissed the North's statement last night as a predictable reaction. Kim made similar remarks in 2008 when he was chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, prompting North Korea to threaten South Korea with destruction.
Analysts in South Korea said the North's latest statement reflected its intolerance of any challenge to its own security and the authoritarian regime leader Kim Jong Il but that the war of words was unlikely to derail attempts to improve relations.
"The North has sent a clear message that it was ready for cooperation with South Korea, but it won't tolerate it if South Korea touches on the prestige of its leader or its system," said analyst Paik Hak-soon of the private Sejong Institute think tank near Seoul.
The North's isolated communist regime has reached out to the US and South Korea in recent months in what could be an attempt to ease some of the pressure of UN sanctions imposed on the North after it conducted a nuclear test last year, its second to date.
North Korea quit international talks on ending its nuclear programmes in April last year, but has indicated its willingness to return to international disarmament negotiations if the sanctions are lifted. (© Daily Telegraph, London)