North Korea warned of a possible military response after South Korea joined an anti-proliferation exercise. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
SEOUL - NORTH Korea said on Wednesday it was abandoning the truce that ended the Korean war and warned it could launch a military attack, deepening tensions two days after testing an atomic bomb for the second time.
The strongly worded announcement came amid reports the secretive North, which outraged the international community with its bomb test on Monday, was also restarting nuclear fuel work that could make plutonium for an atomic weapon.
Defying international condemnation, the regime of Kim Jong-Il said it could no longer guarantee the safety of US and South Korean ships off its west coast and that the Korean peninsula was veering back to a state of war.
'Those who have provoked us will face unimaginable merciless punishment,' the statement on the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, blaming Washington and Seoul for the latest turn of events.
The North's anger was provoked by the South's decision to join a US-led international security initiative, established after the September 11 attacks, to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
South Korea joined the so-called PSI after the North Monday carried out a second nuclear bomb test which was far more powerful than the first test in October 2006.
The PSI, which includes more than 90 nations, provides for the stopping of vessels to ensure they are not carrying weapons of mass destruction or the components to make them.
'Any tiny hostile acts against our republic, including the stopping and searching of our peaceful vessels... will face an immediate and strong military strike in response,' the North Korean statement said.
It said its military would 'no longer be bound' by the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean war - in which the United States fought on the side of the South - because Washington had drawn Seoul into the PSI.
With no binding ceasefire, it said, 'the Korean peninsula will go back to a state of war.' The North has taken an increasingly harder line with the international community in recent months, testing a long-range rocket in April, several missiles over the past few days and its second-ever nuclear test on Monday. -- AFP