North Korea threatened a
nuclear “sacred war” on and South Korea
vowed a “merciless counterattack” if it was attacked again as both
sides raised the rhetoric on a day of more military exercises in the South.
South Korea’s land and sea
exercises prompted North Korea, which has threatened to reduce the South to
ashes on many occasions, to denounce its richer neighbour as a warmonger.
“To counter the enemy’s
intentional drive to push the situation to the brink of war, our revolutionary
forces are making preparations to begin a sacred war at any moment necessary
based on nuclear deterrent,” North Korea’s KCNA news agency quoted Minister
of Armed Forces Kim Yong-chun as saying.
North Korea has wielded its nuclear
capability threat before but analysts say it has no way to launch a nuclear
Tension reached a peak last month
when North Korea shelled a southern island, Yeonpyeong, killing four people; in
response to a South Korean live-fire drill in what the North said were its
The North has since made a
conciliatory gesture, offering to re-admit U.N. nuclear inspectors worried
about its nuclear weapons programme.
“We’ve seen North Korea
flip-flop from threatening the South with nuclear war before the military exercises,
then a day later ignore that the exercises took place, launch a peace
initiative, and now, just days later, once again threaten with nuclear
war,” said Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“The flip-flopping is part of
North Korea’s tactic to keep everyone guessing and off balance.”
Analysts say the North is unlikely
to launch a further attack against the South, in the near-term at least.
China, the impoverished North’s
only major ally, has urged dialogue to resolve the crisis and has been
reluctant to lay blame, frustrating Washington and its allies who want Beijing
to do more to rein in Pyongyang.
President Barack Obama is expected
to press this point when Chinese President Hu Jintao visits the United States
on 19 January.