North Korea said Tuesday it would use nuclear weapons in a "merciless offensive" if provoked — its latest rhetoric apparently aimed at deterring any international punishment for its recent atomic test blast.
The tensions emanating from Pyongyang are beginning to hit nascent business ties with the South: a Seoul-based fur manufacturer became the first South Korean company to announce Monday it was pulling out of an industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong.
The complex, which opened in 2004, is a key symbol of rapprochement between the two Koreas but the goodwill is evaporating quickly in the wake of North Korea's nuclear test on May 25 and subsequent missile tests.
Pyongyang raised tensions a notch by reviving its rhetoric in a commentary in the state-run Minju Joson newspaper Tuesday.
"Our nuclear deterrent will be a strong defensive means ... as well as a merciless offensive means to deal a just retaliatory strike to those who touch the country's dignity and sovereignty even a bit," said the commentary, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
It appeared to be the first time that North Korea referred to its nuclear arsenal as "offensive" in nature. Pyongyang has long claimed that its nuclear weapons program is a deterrent and only for self-defense against what it calls U.S. attempts to invade it.
The tough talk came as South Korea and the U.S. lead an effort at the U.N. Security Council to have the North punished for its nuclear test with tough sanctions.
Seoul's Yonhap news agency reported Tuesday that South Korea had doubled the number of naval ships around the disputed sea border with the North amid concern the communist neighbor could provoke an armed clash there — the scene of skirmishes in 1999 and 2002.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff declined to confirm the report, but said the North has not shown any unusual military moves.
Relations between the two Koreas have significantly worsened since a pro-U.S, conservative government took office in Seoul last year, advocating a tougher policy on the North. Since then, reconciliation talks have been cut off and all key joint projects except the factory park in Kaesong have been suspended.
Lets remember this as well....
Two days after its nuclear test, Pyongyang condemns Seoul for joining an initiative to halt the trade of nuclear materials....The North Korean news service, which is often used by leader Kim Jong Il to express policy statements, added that it considered Seoul's move to join the Proliferation Security Initiative a "declaration of war."