Warning of a “horrible disaster,” North Korea placed its military on high alert on Tuesday as it continued to ramp up the rhetoric against the United States and South Korea.
Citing “imperialist aggression” and American military training maneuvers in the region, along with the moving of an aircraft carrier and other U.S. ships into a South Korean port, a spokesman for the North’s military said they were reexamining their operation plans to, “keep themselves fully ready to promptly launch operations at any time.”
"The U.S. will be wholly accountable for the unexpected horrible disaster to be met by its imperialist aggression forces' nuclear strike means," the spokesman said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
“The U.S. should bear in mind that the Korean people and army are highly alerted to promptly and confidently cope and foil blatant provocations of any hostile forces in the world with its own powerful military muscle,” he added.
The reclusive communist country has often issued threats and in March they declared it was no longer bound by the armistice that ended fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War signed with the United States and China.
The impoverished country's leader Kim Jong Un, has pushed ahead with his late father Kim Jong Il's strategy of establishing North Korea as a nuclear state, no matter the cost in lost trade and international sanctions.
Defying international warnings not to build nuclear and long-range missiles and is believed to have enough fissile material to build up to 10 nuclear bombs, although most intelligence analysis says it has yet to master the technology to deploy such weapons.
The North's large but ageing conventional military is also considered unfit to fight an extended modern battle although in 2010 it staged surprise attacks on the South that killed 50 people.
Seemingly used to its neighbor’s threats to attack, South Korea did not respond by placing their military on high alert.
The joint industrial complex in Kaesong is operating as usual, an indication that the North Korean threat has not reached any critical level.
Calling the criticism “wrong” South Korea's Defence Ministry said on Monday the ships were taking part in a routine maritime search and rescue exercise.
The North’s announcement came a day after South Korean president President Park Geun-hye asked the president of China, North’s Korea’s only ally in the region, to persuade the country to renounce its nuclear program and focus on the economy, according to The Korea Herald.
During talks on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit President Park Geun-hye told her recently appointed Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that close relations between their countries were vital to the prosperity of the region.
“When many North Koreans are suffering from malnutrition at the moment, I believe Pyongyang should not focus all of its resources on nuclear development,” she reportedly said during at the Ayodya Resort Bali hotel.
“I ask China to exert efforts to persuade North Korea to focus on its economic development. For the North to make the right choice, I believe close cooperation between Seoul and Beijing is of great importance.”
Reuters contributed to this report.