SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s defence minister threatened on Wednesday to unleash a “hell of destruction” on neighbouring North Korea in retaliation for any reckless actions.
The heightened rhetoric comes after North Korea said last month it would no longer abide by a military pact between the neighbours in 2018 that aimed to reduce tension.
Pyongyang’s step came after South Korea said it would partially suspend the deal, following the launch of a spy satellite by the North.
“North Korea has only two choices – peace or destruction,” a South Korean defence ministry statement quoted the minister, Shin Won-sik, as saying.
“If North Korea makes reckless actions that harm peace, only a hell of destruction awaits them.”
The remarks, made during a meeting of top military commanders, come less than a week after Shin visited the South’s missile command, which he said would be tasked with “lethally striking the heart and head of the enemy” in the event of a war.
North Korea has defended its development of missiles and nuclear weapons as a sovereign right necessary to counter moves by the United States and its allies.
“The U.S. aggression and hegemonic moves for strengthened alliance are the root cause of aggravating the regional tension,” ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said on Tuesday in a commentary on U.S. drills with Australia and Japan.
In his meeting with the commanders, Shin outlined steps the military was taking to boost its capabilities.
These include launching its own satellites, improving soldiers’ welfare, and “dramatically” strengthening the South’s “three-axis” defence system designed to counter the North’s military threats, including war plans that call for pre-emptive strikes if necessary.
On Tuesday the ministry requested a hike of 4.5% in next year’s defence budget, aiming to boost the “three-axis” system with more submarines, U.S.-made F-35A stealth jets, and missile defence systems.
Last week, the national security advisers of the United States, South Korea and Japan, meeting in Seoul, agreed on new initiatives to respond to North Korea’s threats in cyberspace, from cryptocurrency abuses to space launches.
South Korea and the United States will hold talks on nuclear deterrence on Friday as part of Washington’s commitment to give Seoul more insight into its plans in the event of conflict with North Korea.
Since their 1950-53 war ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty, the neighbours remain technically in a state of war.
Source: The Star