South Korea warns on North Korea threat

South Korean army soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, 6 March 2013 South Korea is still technically at war with the North

South Korea's military has warned it will respond to any provocation from North Korea, after Pyongyang's threat to scrap the Korean War armistice.

Army Gen Kim Yong-hyun promised "resolute retaliations" if South Korean lives were threatened.

North Korea said in a statement on Tuesday said it would end the truce on 11 March due to UN sanctions and military exercises in South Korea.

The Koreas remain technically at war, as they have not signed a peace treaty.

"If North Korea carries out provocations that threaten the lives and safety of South Koreans, our military will carry out strong and resolute retaliations," South Korea's Gen Kim Yong-hyun told reporters.

Gen Kim, who is director-general of operations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said they would target the "origin of provocation" and the North's commanding forces.

The 1953 cease-fire

Map

The agreement provided for:

  • A suspension of open hostilities
  • A fixed demarcation line with a four kilometre (2.4 mile) buffer zone ("demilitarisation zone")
  • A mechanism for the transfer of prisoners of war
'Surgical strikes'

Tension is high on the Korean peninsula following North Korea's third nuclear test on 12 February.

The US on Tuesday tabled a UN resolution - agreed with China - on new sanctions that would target the North's diplomats and cash transfers, in response to the test. The resolution is expected to be formally adopted later this week.

The UN move came hours after the North Korean statement. Attributed to its Military Command, it said the North would "launch surgical strikes at any time and any target without being bounded by the armistice accord".

It is not the first time North Korea has used this kind of threat, says the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Seoul.

But the familiar rhetoric comes at a particularly febrile time on both sides of the Pacific, with most people still waiting to hear what the new UN Security Council resolution will hold, our correspondent adds.

February's nuclear test was the first of its kind under new leader Kim Jong-un, who took over the leadership after his father Kim Jong-il died in December 2011.

North Korea claimed that a "miniaturised" device had been tested, increasing fears that Pyongyang had moved closer to building a warhead small enough to arm a missile.

It came weeks after Pyongyang successfully used a rocket to put a satellite into space, a move condemned by the UN as a banned test of missile technology.

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