SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea made new threats of military action yesterday as the reclusive nation celebrated the anniversary of its founder’s birth, stoking tension on the peninsula with a new “ultimatum” to South Korea in the stand-off over its nuclear programme.
The latest statement from Pyongyang followed threats of nuclear attacks on the United States, South Korea and Japan, after new UN sanctions were imposed in response to the North’s latest nuclear test in February.
“Our retaliatory action will start without any notice from now,” North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said yesterday, noting actions would “start immediately.”
The statement was issued by KCNA after signs that Pyongyang may be presenting a less warlike stance on the “Day of the Sun,” the date the North’s founder Kim Il-Sung was born.
Although many Pyongyang watchers had expected a big military parade to showcase North Korea’s armed forces, the day was marked in Pyongyang with a festival of flowers named after Kim.
US President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye will meet May 7 at the White House to discuss economic and security issues, including “countering the North Korean threat,” the White House said yesterday. The United States has offered talks, but on the pre-condition that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. North Korea deems its nuclear arms a “treasured sword” and has vowed never to give them up.
Nevertheless, US Secretary of State John Kerry, ending a trip to the region dominated by concern about North Korea, stressed his interest in a diplomatic solution.
“The United States remains open to authentic and credible negotiations on denuclearization, but the burden is on Pyongyang,” he said. “North Korea must take meaningful steps to show that it will honor commitments it has already made, and it has to observe laws and the norms of international behavior.”