North Korea on Thursday threatened to carry out pre-emptive nuclear strikes against the United States and South Korea.
The threat from the country's Foreign Ministry came before the U.N. Security Council was to discuss new sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program and recent nuclear test, The New York Times reported.
North Korea escalated its threats against the United States and its allies in the last few days, stating it nullified the 1953 agreement that ended the Korean conflict and threatening to turn Washington and Seoul into "a sea in flames" with "lighter and smaller nukes."
Pyongyang claims it has the right to launch pre-emptive military strikes against the United States because the United States was preparing to start a war on the Korean Peninsula.
In its statement Thursday, however, North Korea discussed pre-emptive nuclear strikes for the first time, citing U.S.-South Korean military exercises as proof preparations for "a nuclear war aimed to mount a pre-emptive strike" on North Korea were under way.
"Now that the U.S. is set to light a fuse for a nuclear war, the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK [the Democratic People's Republic of Korea] will exercise the right to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors and to defend the supreme interests of the country," the Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency.
The spokesman said North Korea was no longer bound by the 1953 cease-fire ending the Korean conflict and its military was free to "take military actions for self-defense against any target any moment."
The proposed U.N. resolution "will compel [North Korea] to take at an earlier date more powerful second and third countermeasures as it had declared," the ministry spokesman said.
"Given that it has become difficult to avert the second Korean war," he said, "the DPRK strongly warns the U.N. Security Council not to make another big blunder like the one in the past when it earned inveterate grudge of the Korean nation by acting as a war servant for the U.S. in 1950."
While analysts say they don't believe North Korea would attack the United States, officials in Seoul fear North Korea could attempt to test South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who took office less than two weeks ago, the Times said.
On Wednesday, a South Korean army general warned that if provoked, South Korea would strike at the top North Korean military leadership.
The Security Council was prepared to add three North Korean weapons dealers and two entities to its new resolution for another round of sanctions against Pyongyang, a copy of a draft resolution obtained Thursday by Yonhap news agency indicated.
After weeks of consultations, the United States and China, North Korea's last ally, agreed to the draft resolution, which also calls for mandatory inspections of North Korean ships and aircraft suspected of carrying banned items, including luxury goods.
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