N. Korea responds angrily to South's talk of pre-emptive strike

North Korea will consider any pre-emptive strike that the South takes against its nuclear facilities as a declaration of war, its state media said Sunday.

The North was responding to recent remarks by the South Korean defense minister.

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said last week that his country could launch a pre-emptive strike on Pyongyang's nuclear facilities if it confirmed that the communist nation was preparing a nuclear attack.

The minister said that his country would have no choice but to strike first in such a situation.

On Sunday, the North Korean military angrily lashed out, saying the "reckless" remarks were an indication that its neighbor was not serious about improving inter-Korean relations.

"Our revolutionary armed forces will regard the scenario for 'pre-emptive strike' which the south Korean puppet authorities adopted as a 'state policy' as an open declaration of war," a North Korean military spokesman was quoted as saying by North Korea's official news agency.

The two countries have technically remained in a state of war since the Korean War ended in 1953, although relations had warmed somewhat in the last few years. The Korean conflict ended in a truce, but no formal peace treaty was ever signed.

But rapprochement talks between the two sides hit a wall after conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in early 2008 with a tough stance toward the North.

Tensions rose further after North Korea abandoned the six-party talks last April, declaring them "dead", in anger over international criticism of its nuclear and missile tests.

The six-party talks, which bring together the U.S., North and South Korea, Japan, Russia and China, aim to negotiate a deal for North Korea to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees and aid.
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