N Korea threatens to attack S Korea over drills

North Korea will launch "merciless" strikes if South Korea goes through with planned live-fire drills near their disputed sea border.

North Korea doesn`t want a war but its people are always
ready to "dedicate their blood to defend their inviolable
territory," officer Sin Chol Ung at the North`s Korean
People`s Security Forces said.

"We are monitoring every movement by the South Korean
warmongers. If they provoke us, there will be only merciless
retaliatory strikes," Sin said.

South Korea will stage regular one-day artillery drills
Monday from front-line islands off the western coast,
including one shelled by North Korea in 2010, according to
Seoul`s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It said South Korea informed North Korea of its training
plan on Sunday.

Soon after, the North`s military issued a statement
warning of the strikes and urging all civilians living or
working on the islands to evacuate before the drills start.

"Such move of the warlike forces is a premeditated
military provocation ... to drive the overall situation on the
Korean peninsula into the phase of war," a North Korean
western military command said in a statement carried by the
official Korean Central News Agency.

The North frequently issues similar rhetoric against
South Korea, but the latest warning comes as ties between the
Koreas remain tense following the death of North Korean leader
Kim Jong Il in December.

South Korea has barred all of its citizens, except for
two private delegations, from visiting to pay respects to Kim,
and North Korea has vowed to retaliate.

South Korea regularly conducts artillery drills from
front-line islands. A November 2010 drill at one of the five
islands, Yeonpyeong, triggered a North Korean artillery
bombardment that killed four South Koreans. Pyongyang has
accused Seoul of provoking the attack by conducting drills in
its territorial waters.

In Seoul, an official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff said
that South Korea`s military will go ahead with Monday`s
two-hour artillery drills and is ready to repel any North
Korean provocation.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity citing
department rules, said North Korea hasn`t shown any suspicious
military activities so far.

South Korea also plans joint anti-submarine drills with
the United States this week, but the training site is further
south, he said. About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South
Korea as what US and South Korean officials call deterrence
against North Korean aggression.

"The Lee Myung-bak group of traitors should not forget
the lesson taught by the Yeonpyeong Island shelling case," the
North`s statement said, referring to the South Korean