North Korea yesterday threated to launch a “sacred war” against South Korea, indicating cross-border ties would remain icy despite Pyongyang’s surprise nuclear deal with Washington.
The North’s agreement to freeze some nuclear and missile activities in return for massive US food aid has raised cautious hopes of eased tensions under new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
In statements released late on Wednesday announcing the deal, both Pyongyang and Washington pledged to work for better relations.
However, yesterday’s comments from the North’s supreme military command struck a different tone with the South.
The command accused South Korean troops of displaying slogans or placards slandering the North’s top leaders at their barracks, shooting ranges and other military facilities.
The soldiers “openly slandered and defamed the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] after creating a touch-and-go situation,” it said in a statement on the official news agency.
The command vowed to “mercilessly” wipe out anyone who “slightly insults and defames” the dignity of the North’s supreme leadership.
Pyongyang made similar threats last year when South Korean reservists were found to be using pictures of the ruling Kim dynasty as rifle-range targets. The South says that practice has been stopped.
Under the agreement with the US, North Korea promised to suspend a uranium enrichment program and declare a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests. It will also re-admit UN -nuclear inspectors.
The US said it would provide the impoverished country with 240,000 tonnes of food intended for young children and pregnant women.
Pyongyang has taken a consistently hostile tone towards Seoul since Kim Jong-un took over after his father Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack on Dec. 17.
Last Saturday it threatened a “sacred war” over US-South Korean joint military drills, describing them as a “silent declaration of war.”
The North vows never to deal with the South’s conservative leaders, accusing them of trying to spark a war and rejecting appeals for dialogue.
Yesterday it compared them to “a mad dog getting more ferocious before meeting its end.”
The nuclear deal follows US-North Korean talks last week in Beijing aimed at restarting six-party negotiations on the North’s nuclear disarmament.
China has welcomed the nuclear deal and pledged to push ahead with efforts to revive the wider nuclear dialogue.
The disarmament talks have been stalled for about three years. The disclosure in November 2010 of the North’s enrichment program, which could give it a second path to an atomic bomb, lent urgency to the diplomacy.
The US and its allies had demanded a shutdown of the program as a precondition for reviving the six-party forum. Washington had also called on Pyongyang to improve ties with Seoul, although the US Department of State made no mention of this in its statement on Wednesday.
Amid the latest progress, the US said North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator, Ri Yong-ho, would pay a rare visit next week for talks at a US university.