Pyongyang: North Korea on Wednesday accused the South of slander and threatened to launch "a retaliatory sacred war" as the two sides prepared to hold rare talks on a stalled joint tourism project.
A Pyongyang government spokesman accused the South`s frontline Army units of displaying slogans slandering the North`s "Army, system and dignity" and said they were "little short of a clear declaration of war".
The unidentified spokesman, in a statement on the official news agency, vowed to respond to any provocations with a "merciless retaliatory sacred war".
The nature of the allegedly insulting slogans was unclear. The North made similar threats when South Korean reservists were found to be using pictures of Pyongyang`s ruling Kim dynasty as rifle-range targets.
That practice has been stopped.
Tensions have been high for well over a year, since the South accused the North of torpedoing a warship in March 2010 and killing 46 sailors.
Pyongyang denied the charge but went on to shell a border island last November, killing four South Koreans including two civilians.
The latest warning came as South Korean officials and businesspeople travelled to a jointly-run mountain resort in the North to discuss the ownership of South Korean assets there.
Mount Kumgang opened in 1998 as a symbol of reconciliation and helped the impoverished communist state earn tens of millions of dollars a year.
But the South suspended visits after a North Korean soldier shot dead a Seoul tourist who had strayed into a restricted military zone in 2008.
Last year, the North seized or sealed off several South Korean properties in protest at the failure to restart the tours.
On June 17, Pyongyang warned it would dispose of properties in the zone, and asked South Korean parties to visit Kumgang by June 30 to discuss the process.