N Korea warns of military action

SEOUL: North Korea says it has abandoned the truce that ended the Korean war, amid rising tension in the region.

It blamed its decision on South Korea joining a US-led initiative to search ships for nuclear weapons.

It said the South’s actions were a “declaration of war”, and pledged to attack if its ships were stopped.

The move is part of an increasingly hard line being taken by North Korea, and comes two days after it conducted an underground nuclear test.

Meanwhile, South Korean news reports say that steam has been seen coming from a plant at the North’s main nuclear facility, a sign that it has made good on its threat to restart efforts to make weapons-grade plutonium.

The United Nations Security Council is working on a strong resolution condemning North Korea’s actions, including possible punitive measures.

In a statement to the North’s official news agency, KCNA, the military warned that it no longer considered itself bound by the terms of a 1953 ceasefire which ended the war between the two Koreas.

The immediate cause, it said, was South Korea’s announcement on Tuesday that it would definitely join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) — a US-led campaign to search ships carrying suspicious cargoes and aim to stop the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction. Joining the PSI “is a natural obligation”, South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan told reporters. “It will help control North Korea’s development of dangerous material.”

But North Korea’s response has been unequivocal. “Any hostile act against our peaceful vessels, including search and seizure, will be considered an unpardonable infringement on our sovereignty,” a spokesman for the North’s army told KCNA.

“We will immediately respond with a powerful military strike.” Tensions have already risen significantly across the Korean peninsula in recent weeks.