South Korea is keeping a close eye on new actions by North Korea, including ordering some people to seek shelter in underground chambers, as the two longtime foes trade threats, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok on Tuesday told journalists the "rhetorical threats" from North Korea's propaganda machine are focused on placing "psychological pressure" on South Korea, which this week began its yearly bilateral Key Resolve armed forces exercise with the United States. North Korea opposes such large-scale drills, seeing in them a pretext for a U.S-South Korea invasion.
"All the enemies quite often playing with fire in the sensitive hot spot should be thrown into a caldron once I issue an order," North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was quoted by state media as stating in Monday remarks to forward-deployed troops. "Once an order is issued, you should break the waists of the crazy enemies, totally cut their windpipes and thus clearly show them what a real war is like."
The spokesman said the South has not detected any hints that North Korea is preparing to fire any more rockets or detonate additional nuclear devices.
Pyongyang is upset with new U.N. Security Council sanctions passed last week in response to the North's Feb. 12 nuclear test.
"Deterring North Korea from acting irrationally is our No. 1 priority," U.S. Strategic Command leader Gen. Robert Kehler said at a Senate hearing on Tuesday. Deterrence starts with military cooperation with South Korea, but also encompasses other deployed forces in the Pacific and "ultimately, all the way back to our nuclear deterrent," he said.
South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young on Tuesday said Pyongyang could not abandon the truce accord that brought Korean War hostilities to a halt, the Yonhap News Agency reported. "The terms of the armistice agreement cannot be unilaterally invalid or terminated," Cho said following the North's declaration that it would no longer be bound by the armistice.