Pyongyang: After a day of festivities to mark the 101st birthday of its first leader, North Korea on Tuesday offered new prickly rhetoric against the United States and South Korea, which are watching closely for signs whether it will conduct a medium-range missile test in defiance of international concerns.
State media said the Supreme Command of the Korean People`s Army issued an ultimatum demanding an apology from South Korea for "hostile acts" and threatening that unspecified retaliatory actions would happen at any time.
The statement, relayed through the KCNA state media agency, came after a day of festivities in North Korea`s capital that featured art performances, public dances and crowds thronging to giant bronze statues to pay homage to the late leader Kim Il Sung.
The renewed rhetoric was sparked by a protest in downtown Seoul, where effigies of Kim Il Sung and his son and successor, late leader Kim Jong Il, were burned.
Such protests are not unusual in South Korea and this one likely gave the North a pretext to react negatively to calls for joining in dialogue with its neighbours than an actual cause for retaliation.
The North`s statement said it would refuse any offers of talks with the South until it apologised for the "monstrous criminal act." North Korea often denounces such protests, but rarely in the name of the Supreme Command, which is headed by Kim Il Sung`s grandson and North Korea`s new leader, Kim Jong Un.
"If the puppet authorities truly want dialogue and negotiations, they should apologise for all anti-DPRK hostile acts, big and small, and show the compatriots their will to stop all these acts in practice," the statement said, referring to North Korea`s official name.
South Korea`s Defence Ministry said today it had received no such ultimatum officially, noting that there is no communications line between the two Koreas.
Pyongyang launched a rocket ahead of the last anniversary of Kim Il Sung`s birth, which was the centennial, but the holiday this year has been much more low-key, with Pyongyang residents gathering in performance halls and plazas and taking advantage of subsidised treats, like shaved ice and peanuts, despite unseasonably cold weather.