North Korea said on Saturday it would begin a "sacred war" against the United States and South Korea at "any time necessary" based on its nuclear deterrent, in response to "reckless" military exercises by the allies.
"The army and people of the DPRK will start a retaliatory sacred war of their own style based on nuclear deterrent any time necessary in order to counter the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces deliberately pushing the situation to the brink of a war," the North's National Defence Commission said.
U.S. and South Korean militaries begin large-scale naval and aerial drills on Sunday with a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier taking part and they have additional exercises planned in August.
Pyongyang customarily voiced shrill anger in the past when the allies conducted exercises.
North Korea has driven tensions on the Korean peninsula to new heights after the South accused the North of sinking one of its warships in March, killing 46, and took steps to boost its defence including massive military drills with the United States.
DPRK is short for Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"All these war manoeuvres are nothing but outright provocations aimed to stifle the DPRK by force of arms to all intents and purposes," the powerful commission said in a statement carried by the North's official KCNA news agency.
It again denied that the country was behind the sinking of South Korea's corvette Cheonan, and said the planned military drills were "as reckless an act as waking up a sleeping tiger".
Following talks in Seoul on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced fresh sanctions on North Korea aimed at freezing its assets earned from illicit activities including arms trade and cut off the flow of cash to its leaders.
The United States and South Korea have rejected the call and said Pyongyang must first prove that it is genuinely interested in change by first apologising for sinking the Cheonan.
Washington brushed off the latest warnings and said it had no interest in getting into a war of words.
The North escaped rebuke by the U.N. Security Council, which condemned the attack in a statement early in July without directly blaming the Pyongyang government.
An official speaking on the sidelines of a multilateral Asian forum in Vietnam last week said the U.S.-South Korean drills also violated the spirit of the U.N. statement, which called for dialogue to ease tensions.
North Korea has called for the resumption of six-party nuclear disarmament talks that it had boycotted since late 2008.
ReutersLast Mod: 24 Temmuz 2010, 10:11