SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea threatened South Korea with destruction Sunday after Seoul's top military officer said it would consider attacking the communist nation if it tried to carry out a nuclear attack.
"Our military will not sit idle until warmongers launch a pre-emptive strike," the North's official Korean Central News agency said. "Everything will be in ashes, not just a sea of fire, if our advanced pre-emptive strike once begins."
The statement, issued by an unidentified military commentator, marked the third straight day of bellicose rhetoric from North Korea, which is angry over the harsher line South Korea's new president has taken against Pyongyang since assuming office last month.
On Friday North Korea test-fired a barrage of missiles into the sea and warned that it would "mercilessly wipe out" any South Korean warships that violate its waters near their disputed sea border.
Such rhetoric from North Korea is not rare during times of increased tensions. The latest came just two days before a scheduled visit to South Korea by the chief U.S. negotiator in North Korean nuclear disarmament talks.
The statement Sunday also warned that the North would suspend all scheduled inter-Korean dialogue unless Seoul retracts and apologizes for a remark by its new top military leader.
Kim Tae-young, chairman of the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a parliamentary hearing Wednesday that the military would strike a suspected North Korean nuclear weapons site if Pyongyang attempted to attack the South with atomic bombs.
His office later said he was talking about a general military principle dealing with outside threats — not about launching an unprovoked pre-emptive attack on the North.
South Korea's Defense Ministry said Sunday that it would decide whether to send a response to the North over its demand for a retraction in a few days.
The North Korean military commentator reaffirmed that Pyongyang was forced to take a firm step: banning South Korean officials, including military officers, from crossing the two countries' border.
Pyongyang did not say when the ban would take effect or how long it would last.
South Korean officials have occasionally traveled across the two countries' heavily fortified border for talks.