Mon, Jan 25, 2010 - Page 4 News List

N Korea threatens Seoul over minister’s comments

WAR OF WORDS Pyongyang said the South Korean defense chief’s remarks on a pre-emptive strike created a situation that could lead to fighting ‘at any moment’

AFP , SEOUL

North Korea yesterday lashed out at South Korea’s plan to launch a “pre-emptive strike” to thwart any nuclear attack from Pyongyang as “an open declaration of war,” state media said.

The North’s General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said the South Korean defense chief’s recent remarks on a pre-emptive strike had created a “grave situation” that could lead to war “at any moment.”

The North’s 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 center,” it said, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

The agency later carried a separate statement by the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea in protest at Seoul’s alleged contingency plan for possible unrest in Pyongyang as well.

“This itself is a declaration of a war against [North Korea],” said the state committee, which handles cross-border relations with the South.

The North’s warning came days after South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said Seoul would launch a pre-emptive strike to frustrate any nuclear attacks by the communist regime.

“We would have to strike right away if we detected a clear intention to attack [South Korea] with nuclear weapons,” Kim told a Seoul forum on Wednesday.

“It would be too late and the damage would be too big if, in the case of a North Korean nuclear attack, we had to cope with the attack,” he said.

The North’s statement warned yesterday that its armed forces regard this as the South’s “state policy” and was “an open declaration of war.”

Kim made similar remarks in 2008, sparking the North’s angry protest and temporarily expulsion of South Korean officials from a Seoul-funded industrial park just north of the heavily fortified border.

International efforts to bring Pyongyang back to six-party nuclear disarmament talks have so far made little headway.

North Korea abandoned the talks last April, a month before defiantly conducting a second atomic bomb test following its first in 2006, which soon led to UN sanctions on the communist state.

Its foreign ministry repeated last week that it would not return to the talks with the US, China, South Korea, Russia and Japan until the sanctions are lifted.

The ministry also renewed a demand for early discussions on a peace pact aimed at formally ending the 1950-1953 Korean War.

The US and South Korea have rejected the demands, saying the North must first come back to the disarmament talks and show it is serious about scrapping its atomic programs.

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