North Korea threatens 'sacred war' with media in South

North Korea's military warns troops have aimed artillery at the specific co-ordinates of South Korean media groups as Pyongyang threatened a "merciless sacred war" over perceived insults.

Mentions specific longitude and latitude of the locations of 7 media outlets

A North Korean soldier stands in Paju, about 55 kilometres north of the South Korean capital of Seoul. Media in the South have criticized ongoing children's festivals in the North. (Jung Yeon-je/Reuters)

North Korea's military warned Monday that troops have aimed artillery at the specific co-ordinates of South Korean media groups as Pyongyang threatened a "merciless sacred war" over perceived insults.

The North Korean statement, which expresses outrage over South Korean media criticism of ongoing children's festivals in Pyongyang, is the latest in a series of threats aimed at Seoul's conservative government and news agencies following the December death of Kim Jong-il, the father of new leader Kim Jong-un. North Korea hasn't yet acted on its threats of violence.

Still, Monday's comments from the General Staff of the Korean People's Army contained an unusually specific mention of the longitude and latitude of the locations of seven media outlets. North Korea said it had targeted those agencies and would attack if Seoul doesn't apologize for orchestrating a "vicious smear campaign" against the festivals in the North's capital.

In Seoul, the Unification Ministry, which handles relations with the North, called the statement a "grave provocation."

"It's too serious to put aside," ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk told reporters.

Ties between the divided Koreas are at a low point following a failed North Korean rocket launch in April that Washington, Seoul and others have called a cover for a test of long-range missile technology. North Korea says the rocket, which broke apart shortly after liftoff, was meant to launch an observational satellite.

Among the media groups North Korea threatened was Channel A, a television network affiliated with the conservative Dong-a Ilbo newspaper, which has described the children's festivals in Pyongyang as an Adolph Hitler-style "political show."

Channel A and other South Korean media have reported this year's celebrations will be the North's largest ever, saying Kim Jong-un is trying to obtain allegiance from children who will join the army in a few years under a mandatory conscription system.

"Officers and men of the army corps, divisions and regiments on the front, and strategic rocket forces in the depth of the country, are loudly calling for the issue of order to mete out punishment," according to the North's statement, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Calls to Channel A's public affairs office weren't immediately answered and no relevant statement was posted on the network's website.

2 Koreas still technically at war

About 20,000 children across North Korea are celebrating the 66th anniversary of the Korean Children's Union, according to KCNA. During the six-day festival that began Sunday, children planned to tour Pyongyang, participate in political and cultural events and visit a zoo and restaurants, the agency said.

The two Koreas are still technically at war because their 1950-53 war ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The head of the UN nuclear agency, meanwhile, says his organization does not plan to send a mission to North Korea any time soon, despite an invitation from Pyongyang.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano is invoking the North's mid-April launch of a satellite as negating any "immediate prospect of an agency mission taking place."

Because of similar technologies, the satellite launch was widely interpreted internationally as a test of North Korean missile capabilities. Pyongyang is prohibited from conducting missile tests by the UN Security Council.

The North issued the invitation to the IAEA on March 13. Amano said it became obvious that it could not send a mission to Pyongyang in the near future after recent contacts with North Korean officials.