North Korea vowed Tuesday to cancel the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War, citing a U.S.-led push for punishing United Nations sanctions over its recent nuclear test and ongoing U.S.-South Korean joint military drills.
Without elaborating, the Korean People's Army Supreme Command warned of "surgical strikes" meant to unify the divided Korean Peninsula and of an indigenous, "precision nuclear striking tool." The statement came amid reports that Washington and North Korean ally Beijing have approved a draft of a UN Security Council resolution calling for sanctions in response to North Korea's Feb. 12 nuclear test. The draft is expected to be circulated at the UN this week.
Heated military rhetoric is common from North Korea when tensions rise on the Korean Peninsula and during U.S.-South Korean war games, but this latest statement is unusually specific. It threatens to block a communications line between North Korea and the United States at the border village separating the two Koreas, and to nullify the 60-year-old Korean War armistice agreement on March 11, when two weeks of U.S.-South Korean military drills will draw 10,000 South Korean and 3,500 U.S. forces. An earlier round of drills between the allies began earlier this month.
Pyongyang's recent nuclear test and rocket launches, and the subsequent call for U.N. punishment, have increased already high animosity between the North and Washington and Seoul.
The United States and others worry that North Korea's third nuclear test takes it a big step closer toward its goal of having nuclear-armed missiles that can reach America, and condemn its nuclear and missile efforts as threats to regional security and a drain on the resources that could go to North Korea's largely destitute people.
North Korea says its nuclear program is a response to U.S. hostility that dates back to the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically in a state of war.
Even amid the tension, however, North Korea has welcomed high-profile American visitors, including former basketball star Dennis Rodman, known for his piercings and tattoos as much as his Hall of Fame career with the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls.
Rodman met the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, called him an "awesome guy" and said Kim wanted President Barack Obama to call him. The trip was criticized for giving the authoritarian leader a propaganda boost, but Rodman suggested "basketball diplomacy" could warm relations. Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, made a four-day trip in January, but did not meet Kim.
North Korean propaganda regularly cites decades-old, Cold War-era American threats as the reason for its nuclear efforts and holds that the North remains at risk of an unprovoked nuclear attack. Washington and others say brinksmanship is the North's true motive for the nuclear push.
The North's statement called U.S.-South Korean military drills a "dangerous nuclear war targeted at us."
"We aim to launch surgical strikes at any time and any target without being bounded by the armistice accord and advance our long-cherished wish for national unification," the statement said.