North Korean general believed to be behind 2010 attacks on South dies at 77

The North Korean military general believed by archrival South Korea to have been behind two attacks on South Korea that killed 50 people in 2010 has died. He was 77.

The North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Monday that Kim Kyok Sik died of acute respiratory failure on Sunday.

Kim is the former commander of battalions who South Korean officials say directed North Korea's torpedo attack on a South Korean warship in March 2010 and its artillery strikes on a South Korean border island in November that year. North Korea has denied its responsibility for the torpedo attack.

The attacks spiked animosities between the Koreas, which have been divided along the world's most heavily fortified border since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. South Korean economic sanctions and other punitive measures imposed after the North's alleged torpedo attack remain in place and still serve as a source of tension between the rivals.

After the South Korean warship sinking, Kim, a four-star army general, served as the North's armed forces minister, the equivalent of South Korea's defense chief, and chairman of the military's General Staff. Kim's last official job was as a member of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party and a delegate to the country's rubber-stamp legislature.

The North Korean newspaper said Kim's death is "pitiful" to the country, saying he was awarded a slew of state decorations for unspecified work and achievements for North Korea and its people. The newspaper didn't mention the 2010 attacks.

Kim, born the son of a tenant farming family when the Korean Peninsula was under Japan's colonial occupation from 1910-1945, lived in poverty before dedicating his life to the military after the peninsula was liberated at the end of the Word War II in 1945, according to the newspaper.

Lim Byeong Cheol, a spokesman at South Korea's Unification Ministry, declined to comment on Kim's death.