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S. Korea urges N. Korea to stop provocative threats

All Headlines 16:22 December 20, 2013

SEOUL, Dec. 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's top point man on North Korea urged Pyongyang Friday to stop its provocative threats against Seoul and called for cooperation to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

"North Korea should take the attitude to resolve inter-Korean issues in a step by step manner through dialogue," Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said in a forum at the National Assembly.

"In that case, we will play an active role" in easing the dire economic situation in North Korea, one of the poorest countries in the world.

His comments came a day after North Korea has threatened to strike South Korea in anger over a recent Seoul rally condemning North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for his reign of terror.

The North has executed Kim's once-powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek accused of treason last week, a shocking purge that drew widespread condemnation and sparked concerns for possible instability.

Ryoo said South Korea is bracing for all possibilities, noting the bloody purge has heightened uncertainty in the isolated country.

The North's powerful National Defense Commission warned of ruthless retaliation against the South "without any notice," accusing South Korea of insulting its highest dignity, referring to Kim.

On Tuesday, some 70 South Korean conservatives and North Korean defectors staged a protest against the North, burned effigies of Kim and his father and grandfather, the North's two late leaders, Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung.

The South Korean capital city of Seoul has more than 10 million people and is within range of North Korea's conventional artillery, positioned along the heavily fortified border.

On Thursday, South Korea's defense ministry immediately replied through the military line, vowing to "sternly react" to any provocations, ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.

The North has bristled at any outside criticism of its leader and has made similar verbal threats against the South in recent years, although no actual attack has occurred since late 2010.

Seoul has repeatedly vowed to retaliate against any provocations to avenge the deaths of 50 South Koreans who were killed in North Korea's two separate attacks in March and November of 2010.

Meanwhile, North Korean state media called Kim the "great leader" as its people pledged loyalty to him in the latest event appeared to be orchestrated by the North to strengthen Kim's monolithic leadership.

The North's main newspaper Rodong Sinmun used the honorific epithet for Kim in a report published Friday.

It marked the first time that the North's official media used the appellation "great leader," a title that was reserved only for Kim's father, Kim Jong-il, who died suddenly of a heart attack in 2011.

More North Koreans have said they will faithfully "follow the ideology and leadership of the Marshal of Paektu bloodline," in a series of allegiance letters addressed to the leader, according to a Friday radio broadcast monitored in Seoul.

Kim was named marshal, the North Korean military's highest rank, last year as he has been consolidating his grip on power that he assumed in 2011 following the demise of his father.

North Korea has said Kim carries the country's royal bloodline, called the Mount Paektu bloodline.

The North claims the mountain, the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula and located on the Sino-North Korean border, is the sacred birthplace of Kim Jong-il, though historians and foreign officials have said he was born in Russia.


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