North Korea threatened on Thursday to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States, escalating tensions as the UN Security Council prepares to discuss further sanctions against the communist state over its atomic activities, dpa reported.
"Since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war, we will be exercising our right to preemptive nuclear attack against the headquarters of the aggressor in order to protect our supreme interest," local media quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.
Pyongyang has threatened to revoke the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War for what it claimed were "confrontation moves" by South Korea and the United States, which are holding joint military exercises in the region.
"Even if Pyongyang or Washington pushed the nuclear weapons release button first, neither can legally be held accountable," the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the North's ruling Workers' Party of Korea, was quoted as saying by the South's Yonhap news agency.
Threats against South Korea from Pyongyang are not unusual, but direct references to Seoul's formal ally, the United States, are less common. The latest threat comes at a time of heightened tensions following North Korea's third nuclear test in February.
Also on Thursday, South Korean troops were placed on alert as the North prepared for what Seoul called "massive" military exercises.
The South Korean military is ready to deal with potential provocations from its neighbour, a spokesman for the Defence Ministry said.