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(LEAD) N. Korea warns of retaliation against Park

All Headlines 09:54 March 23, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 4-5, 7, 11-13)

SEOUL, March 23 (Yonhap) -- North Korea threatened Wednesday to wage a retaliatory war against President Park Geun-hye in the latest show of defiance against tougher U.N. sanctions and joint military drills between Seoul and Washington.

"From this moment, the North's army and revolutionary forces will push for a retaliatory war to eliminate the United States and Park's followers in the name of justice," the North's committee handling inter-Korean affairs said in a statement carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency.

It warned that its patience is wearing thin over Washington and Seoul's "reckless" military provocations.

The North also said that it is ready to destroy South Korea's presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae in an instant with large-caliber multiple rocket launchers, which it says are deployed for actual combat.

"If we push a button and wage strikes, (Cheong Wa Dae) can be engulfed in a sea of fire and burned into ashes," it said. The committee claimed the North does not utter empty words and said the miserable ends to befall the U.S. and South Korea will vindicate its warnings.

North Korea has made similar threats in the past, but the latest one came amid growing speculation that it may carry out another nuclear test and launch missiles in the near term.

The North conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, followed by a fourth in January.

Seoul and Washington have started their largest joint military drills ever, which will come to a close on April 30. The North has long denounced them as a rehearsal for a northward invasion, a charge denied by Seoul and Washington.

The North ratchets up its bellicose rhetoric whenever Seoul and Washington hold the military exercises.

Earlier this month, the North was slapped with tougher sanctions from the United Nations Security Council over its January nuclear test and long-range rocket launch in February.

Reflecting this, North Korea last week launched two medium-range ballistic missiles, with one believed to have blown up in mid-flight. It also fired several short-range projectiles this month into waters off its east coast.

Experts say that Pyongyang may see somewhere between the end of the military drills and its party event slated for early May as a prime time for high-profile provocations, including sporadic military actions.

South Korea's spy agency said that the North is likely to hold its ruling party congress on May 7.


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