(New York Times)
HONG KONG — North Korea, breaking from the restraint it showed this week during military exercises by the South, said Thursday that it was prepared to use its nuclear weapons if it was attacked.
The North is “fully prepared to launch a sacred war,” the minister of the People’s Armed Forces, Kim Young-chun, said in comments carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency and quoted by Western news media. North Korea’s comments are typically bellicose, but they had been low key this week as South Korea held military exercises across its territory.
On Monday, the South staged live-fire artillery drills on Yeonpyeong Island, which was shelled by the North’s artillery on Nov. 23. Four South Koreans were killed. North Korea claims the waters around Yeonpyeong and disputes the maritime border known as the Northern Limit Line.
After the drills on Monday, the North’s official news agency said it was “not worth reacting” to the exercise. South Korea followed those drills with three days of naval exercises, and on Thursday, the South held large-scale military exercises between its capital, Seoul, and the border with the North.
President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea vowed Thursday to conduct a quick counterattack if South Korean territory was attacked again.
“I thought patience would bring peace to this land,” Mr. Lee said during a visit to an army unit in Kangwon Province, the Yonhap news service reported.