NKorea says ready to fight ‘holy war’ us­ing nu­clear de­ter­rent

The Pak Banker - - International -

SEOUL: North Korea's min­is­ter of armed forces said on Thurs­day its mil­i­tary was pre­pared to wage a "holy war" against the South us­ing its nu­clear de­ter­rent af­ter what he called Seoul's at­tempt to ini­ti­ate con­flict.

Min­is­ter Kim Yong-chun re­peated Py­ongyang's charge that the South had been pre­par­ing to start a war by con­duct­ing live-fire drills off the west coast, speak­ing at a rally to mark leader Kim Jong-il's rise to the coun­try's top mil­i­tary post 19 years ago.

He was quoted by North Korea's KCNA news agency which reg­u­larly threat­ens the South but which had up to now been rel­a­tively re­strained in its crit­i­cism of the mil­i­tary drills.

More­over, South Korean Pres­i­dent Lee Myung-bak said its mil­i­tary should launch a "mer­ci­less coun­ter­at­tack" if its ter­ri­tory is at­tacked again by North Korea, as Seoul's mil­i­tary held ma­jor land and sea ex­er­cis- es on Thurs­day.

"We had be­lieved pa­tience would en­sure peace on this land, but that was not the case," Lee told troops at a for­ward army unit near the border.

South Korea held a ma­jor land drill in the Pocheon re­gion, be­tween Seoul and the heav­ily armed demil­i­ta­rized zone (DMZ) sep­a­rat­ing the two Koreas. It also con­tin­ued naval live-fire ex­er­cises 100 km (60 miles) south of the mar­itime border with North Korea. The drill, in­volv­ing a larger scale of fire­power and per­son­nel than usual for an ex­er­cise at the army train­ing ground, is an in­di­ca­tion that Lee wants to show the pub­lic Seoul can stand up to the North. A large con­tin­gent of mech­a­nized units op­er­at­ing tanks, three dozen self-pro­pelled ar­tillery, fighter jets and mul­ti­ple rocket launch­ers, took part in the live-fire drill just miles from the border with the North.

About 800 lo­cal res­i­dents and chil­dren were in­vited to watch the drill from bleach­ers set up over­look­ing a wide val­ley where the troops aimed firearms.

Lee has re­placed his top de­fense of­fi­cials with more hawk­ish mil­i­tary men, a re­sponse to crit­i­cism of a per­ceived weak re­sponse to hos­tile acts from the North, in­clud­ing a sub­ma­rine at­tack in March and the shelling of Yeon­pyeong is­land last month.

"(South Korea) is try­ing to hide the provoca­tive na­ture to­ward the North of the war ex­er­cises," Py­ongyang's of­fi­cial KCNA news agency said in a com­ment, call­ing the drills "mad­cap" and "of­fen­sive" and re­fer­ring to the South Korean mil­i­tary as "pup­pet war­mon­gers," an in­sult it fre­quently de­ploys.

The South Korean Army is mak­ing no se­cret that the drill is aimed at dis­play­ing its fire­power to its neigh­bor.

"We are fac­ing a cri­sis be­cause of North Korea, so I came to see this air and ground op­er­a­tion. I want to feel and see the level of South Korea's armed forces," said Kim Tae­dong, a 70-year-old in­ter­net busi­ness­man, in Pocheon.

"An­other North Korean provo­ca­tion will hap­pen. We should pre­pare our mil­i­tary per­fectly for that."

Seoul's fi­nan­cial mar­kets closed flat, with in­vestors shrug­ging off the ten­sions. Py­ongyang's threat­en­ing re­marks have in the past failed to have a last­ing ef­fect.

The North's re­ac­tion was rel­a­tively calm in com­par­i­son with its threats of a re­tal­ia­tory strike made as re­cently as last week, be­fore Mon­day's live-fir­ing drill on Yeon­pyeong, which lies in dis­puted wa­ters off the west coast of the penin­sula.

Its of­fi­cial Rodong Sin­mun news­pa­per ac­cused the United States of con­spir­ing with the South and Ja­pan to bring war to the Korean penin­sula. -Ap

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