Hanoi: North Korea threatened on Saturday to mount a powerful nuclear response to upcoming joint US-South Korean military drills, calling the exercises an "unpardonable" provocation on top of wrongly blaming Pyongyang for the sinking of a South Korean warship.
North Korea`s powerful National Defence Commission, led by leader Kim Jong Il, warned that its troops would counter the move to hold military manoeuvres involving a nuclear-armed US supercarrier with a "retaliatory sacred war”.
"The Army and people of the DPRK will legitimately counter with their powerful nuclear deterrence the largest-ever nuclear war exercises to be staged by the US and the south Korean puppet forces," North Korea`s official news agency in Pyongyang quoted an unnamed commission spokesman as saying, referring to the country by its official name, the Democratic People`s Republic of Korea.
Pyongyang routinely threatens war when South Korea and the US hold joint military drills, which North Korea sees as a rehearsal for an attack on the North. The US keeps 28,500 troops in the South to deter against aggression, but says it has not intention of invading the North.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and South Korean Defence Minister Kim Tae-young announced earlier this week in Seoul that the allies would stage a massive four-day military show of force starting Sunday to send a "clear message" to North Korea to stop its aggressive behaviour.
Washington and Seoul blame Pyongyang for the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in the waters off Korea`s west coast. Forty-six sailors were killed in what Seoul calls the worst military attack on South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War.
North Korea vehemently denies any involvement, and has warned that any punishment would trigger war.
In Vietnam for a Southeast Asian regional security forum, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and a North Korean official traded barbs over the sinking, the military drills and the imposition of new US sanctions against the North.
Also on Friday, the US-led military command monitoring the ceasefire on the Korean peninsula confronted the North about the March 26 sinking of the Cheonan, calling it a violation of the armistice signed in 1953. Colonels from the UN Command, who met at the border with counterparts from the North`s army, reminded them of the UN Security Council order to honour the truce. Officers also proposed a joint task force to discuss armistice violations, the military commission said in a statement.