Pyongyang threatens to fire on ROK
Updated: 2012-10-20 08:34
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea on Friday threatened a "merciless" military strike on the Republic of Korea's territory next week, prompting a swift vow of retaliation from Seoul in a serious escalation of cross-border tensions.
The Korean People's Army said it would launch the attack if DPRK defectors in the ROK went ahead with plans to scatter anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets on Monday from balloons floated over the border.
The threat came a day after ROK President Lee Myung-bak made a surprise visit to an island close to the disputed maritime frontier that was shelled by the DPRK two years ago.
"The moment a minor movement for the scattering is captured, ... a merciless military strike by the Western Front will be put into practice without warning," the KPA said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
"The surrounding area will become targets of direct firing of the KPA," the statement said, advising all local residents to "evacuate in anticipation".
A group of DPRK defectors plan to carry out the leafleting exercise on Monday at 11:30 am at the border near the town of Paju, around 60 km north of Seoul.
Such events are relatively common and the DPRK has threatened action in the past, but Friday's statement was unusually strong with its specific naming of the time and location, coupled with the evacuation warning.
The ROK responded swiftly, with Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin promising military retaliation in the event of any attack.
"If that happens, we will strike back at the origin of fire," Kim was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency.
"We are fully prepared," Kim said, adding that troops had been put on alert along the western section of the border.
The exchange of strong warnings came as Glyn Davies, the top US envoy for the DPRK, met in Seoul with Lim Sung-nam, ROK's envoy to stalled Six-Party Talks on DPRK's nuclear arms programs .
Davies did not comment on the DPRK's threat during a meeting with reporters, but urged Pyongyang to follow through with its commitments made in past nuclear agreements with the United States, the ROK, Russia, China and Japan.
During Lee's visit to Yeonpyeong Island on Wednesday, he had told troops stationed there that they should "fight to the death" to protect the border and "retaliate strongly" against any DPRK provocation.
The DPRK shelled Yeonpyeong in the Yellow Sea on Nov 23, 2010, leaving two ROK soldiers and two civilians dead. The ROK retaliated with its own artillery bombardment on two targets in the DPRK.
There have been widespread concerns in the ROK that Pyongyang may try to instigate a military clash that would temporarily destabilize the Korean Peninsula in the run-up to the ROK presidential election in December.
Some ROK analysts played down the warning from the DPRK, saying its main aim was psychological.
Agencies in Seoul