North Korea says it's ready for "all-out confrontation" with South
North Korea's military upped its threats against South Korea Thursday, saying it was prepared for "an all-out confrontation" with its neighbour, dpa reported.
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency carried the military spokesman's remarks the same day US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was to arrive in South Korea on a visit that was to focus on efforts to end the North's nuclear weapons programme.
The spokesman called South Korean President Lee Myung Bak's government a "group of traitors" and alleged that it wanted to escalate the confrontation with the North.
The North Korean People's Army threatened an open military conflict with the South in January, saying Lee and his "puppet military war hawks" would force it "to take a strong military retaliatory step to wipe them out."
South Korea fears tensions with its Stalinist neighbour could escalate into a limited military altercation, possibly over the two countries' contested border in the Yellow Sea.
Relations between the Korean Peninsula neighbours have soured since Lee took office a year ago, scrapped the so-called Sunshine Policy of his liberal predecessors and adopted a tougher course toward Pyongyang, demanding progress in dismantling the North's nuclear weapons programme in exchange for aid.
Repeated requests by Seoul for dialogue with Pyongyang have been rejected. Instead, Pyongyang has threatened Seoul with annihilation several times over the past weeks and in late January scrapped bilateral reconciliation agreements and nullified an agreement over its sea border with the South. It accused Lee's government of pursuing a confrontational policy.
"The Lee Myung-bak group of traitors should never forget that the Korean People's Army is fully ready for an all-out confrontation," its military spokesman said in Thursday's report.
Clinton said this week in Japan, the first stop on her first overseas trip as the top US diplomat, that she agreed with her Japanese counterpart to apply pressure on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme and work to prevent further nuclear proliferation.
She also said a test launch of a long-range missile by the North would "be very unhelpful" for the development of relations with the United States.
South Korean officials said the North has been preparing for weeks to test-fire its intercontinental ballistic Taepodong-2 missile. Pyongyang said it is preparing a launch of a multiple-stage rocket but it would be for "space development."
Clinton was expected in South Korea Thursday night after finishing a visit to Indonesia. She is to hold talks with South Korean leaders Friday.