Seoul — North Korea threatened a “merciless” strike against South Korea after activists in the South burned effigies of the North’s ruling Kim dynasty on the second anniversary of former leader Kim Jong Il’s death, according to officials on Friday.
The warning came from the secretariat of the North’s highest military body, the National Defence Commission, through a military hotline on Thursday, said the South’s defence ministry.
In Tuesday rallies marking the death of Kim Jong Il, South Korean conservative groups burned effigies of current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, his late father, and grandfather.
In its warning, the North said the rallies had insulted the “highest dignity” of its leadership, and threatened to take “merciless” retaliatory acts without any prior warning, the South Korean defence ministry said.
“We’ve sent a reply vowing to react sternly to any provocations by North Korea,” a ministry spokesman told reporters.
The threat from the North comes in the midst of increasing concern over the regime’s stability in the wake of last week’s execution of the high-level official Jang Song-thaek, who was the uncle of leader Kim Jong Un, as well as his former political mentor.
Both South Korea and the United States have warned of possible provocative acts by the nuclear armed North, said reports.
The threat from the North is not unusual, as the strictly controlled communist state has a long history of bellicose rhetoric, threatening strikes against South Korea quite frequently.
The tensions between the two Korean states had been cooling down recently after rising last February, when the North went ahead with its third underground nuclear test in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
But tensions have risen again in recent weeks, and the sudden arrest and execution of Jang Song-thaek was an alarming development in the secretive North Korean state.