Seoul: South Korea`s President urged North Korea on Friday to stop its "reckless military provocations" as the two countries marked the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of their war.
Six decades later, the peninsula is still divided by barbed wire and minefields. Tensions remain high after the South accused its communist neighbour of torpedoing a warship.
At a solemn commemoration ceremony in Seoul, President Lee Myung-Bak said the South`s ultimate goal "is not a military confrontation but peaceful reunification".
But he reiterated calls for the North to apologise for the March 26 sinking of the ship which cost 46 lives.
The South, citing the findings of a multinational investigation, has announced non-military reprisals against the North.
Along with its US ally, it is also pressing for United Nations Security Council condemnation of the North.
The North denies involvement and accuses its neighbour of mounting a smear campaign to fuel tensions. It threatens a military response to any UN actions.
"North Korea should take a responsible attitude in front of the international community," Lee said in a speech.
"North Korea should stop reckless military provocations and take the path for the 70 million Koreans to live together."
Hundreds of decorated veterans from the South, and from other countries that fought for it in the 1950-53 conflict, joined families, diplomats and VIPs for the commemoration.
They included Britain`s Duke of Gloucester, cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.
On display were the flags of the 21 countries that sent troops or medical units to support the South under a United Nations flag against North Korea and its Chinese ally.
The war, which began with a North Korean invasion, cost close to three million lives by most estimates. It ended only with an armistice and not a peace treaty, leaving North and South technically at war six decades later.
Some 28,500 US troops are deployed in the South to support its 655,000-strong military against any threat from the North`s 1.2 million-strong armed forces.
The North describes the current confrontation over the ship as a "war phase".
Lee presented plaques of thanks to representatives of the 21 nations.
"South Korean and UN soldiers, you were not only courageous and genuine soldiers but also a cornerstone of South Korea`s history," he said. "We will remember your sacrifice and dedication forever."
The North insists that South Korea and its US ally instigated the war.
"The war was actually kicked off due to provocations from the south," its official news agency said on Thursday.
"No matter what gimmick the US imperialists may employ, they can never hide their true colours as provokers of the Korean War and aggressors."
The cash-strapped state has demanded that the United States pay almost USD 65 trillion in compensation for six decades of hostility.
It says the figure includes USD 26.1 trillion arising from US war "atrocities", alleging that these left more than five million North Koreans dead, wounded, kidnapped or missing.
Students and farm workers held meetings to mark the anniversary and to vow revenge on "the Yankees as a herd of wolves in human skin", the news agency reported earlier this week.