Fri, Feb 20, 2009 - Page 1 News List

N Korea steps up war rhetoric ahead of Clinton's trip

AP , SEOUL

North Korea stepped up its war rhetoric yesterday, saying its troops were “fully ready for an all-out confrontation” with South Korea ahead of a visit to Seoul by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

North Korea’s military accused South Korean President Lee Myung-bak of using “nonexistent nuclear and missile threats” from the North as a pretext for an invasion, amid reports North Korea is preparing to test-fire a long-range missile.

The strident statement came as Clinton was to arrive yesterday in Seoul for talks expected to focus on North Korea.

Tensions between the two Koreas have risen to the highest level in a decade since the pro-US Lee took office a year ago with a harder line toward the North than his liberal predecessors.

Analysts say North Korea has been using threats against the South — as well as missile test preparations — to draw the attention of US President Barack Obama’s administration amid a deadlock in nuclear negotiations.

Pyongyang said on Monday it “has no need to draw anyone’s attention.”

Yesterday’s statement, carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), called Lee’s administration a “group of traitors” and warned it “should never forget that the [North] Korean People’s Army is fully ready for an all-out confrontation.”

KCNA also claimed that the US and South Korea were preparing for an attack by planning joint military exercises and warned they would pay “a high price” for their moves.

The US and South Korea insist such joint exercises are purely defensive.

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