N. Korea threatens S. Korea despite accord with US

North Korea Friday renewed threats to launch a "sacred war" against South Korea, indicating cross-border ties will remain icy despite Pyongyang's surprise nuclear deal with Seoul's close ally 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 its new young leader Kim Jong-Un.

In statements released late Wednesday announcing the deal, both Pyongyang and Washington pledged to work for better relations.

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But Friday'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 (North Korea) after creating a touch-and-go situation", it said in a statement on the official news agency.

The command "solemnly declares once again that it will indiscriminately stage its own-style sacred war to wipe out the group of traitors".

"Those who hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK even a bit will find no breathing spell in this land and sky," it said.

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 United States, the communist state promised to suspend a uranium enrichment programme and declare a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests. It would also re-admit UN nuclear inspectors.

The United States said it would provide the impoverished and hungry country with 240,000 tonnes of food intended for young children and pregnant women.

Pyongyang has taken a consistently hostile tone towards Seoul since Jong-Un took over after his father Kim Jong-Il died of a heart attack on December 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. On Friday it compared them to "a mad dog getting more ferocious before meeting its end".

But Seoul's Unification Minister Yu Woo-Ik told a forum Friday: "We urge North Korea again to quickly respond to our proposal for dialogue."

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, the North's sole major ally and economic prop, hosts those talks which also group the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia.

Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi Friday met his South Korean counterpart Kim Sung-Hwan for talks on North Korea and other issues and was scheduled to visit President Lee Myung-Bak later in the day.

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 some three years. The disclosure in November 2010 of the North's enrichment programme, which could give it a second path to an atomic bomb, lent urgency to the diplomacy.

The United States and its allies had demanded a shutdown of the programme as one precondition for reviving the six-party forum.

Washington had also called on Pyongyang to improve ties with Seoul, although the State Department made no mention of this in its statement Wednesday.

Amid the latest progress, the United States said North Korea's top nuclear negotiator Ri Yong-Ho would pay a rare visit next week for talks at a US university.

Analysts said Wednesday's deal could help revive the six-party talks, but many remain sceptical that the North will ever abandon its nuclear weaponry.

by Lim Chang-Won © 2012 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Mar 2, 2012