Seoul Vows 'Stern' Response to N.Korean Provocation

The South Korean military on Wednesday vowed to respond firmly to any North Korean provocation.

"If North Korea pushes ahead with provocations that would threaten the lives and safety of our citizens, our military will strongly and sternly punish the provocations' starting point, its supporting forces and command," said Maj. Gen. Kim Kim Yong-hyun, the head of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The warning came a day after North Korea threatened to scrap the armistice that halted the Korean War over 60 years ago and warned of "precision nuclear strikes" that will create a "sea of fire."

Joint Chiefs of Staff head of operations Maj. Gen. Kim Yong-hyun briefs reporters in Seoul on Wednesday. Joint Chiefs of Staff head of operations Maj. Gen. Kim Yong-hyun briefs reporters in Seoul on Wednesday.

A military source here said Seoul intends to target the highest ranks of the North's regime in the event of an attack. "When we refer to command, it usually signifies divisional or corps commanders," the source said. "But if Seoul comes under attack, the top levels of North Korea's regime including [leader] Kim Jong-un could become targets."

North Korea continued saber-rattling on Wednesday threatening to turn Washington D.C. into a "sea of fire" and to plant the North Korean flag atop Mt. Halla on Jeju Island off the southern tip off the Korean Peninsula.

Buses and trains in Pyongyang were spotted draped in camouflage netting. The North also designated no-fly zones over the East and West seas and restricted ship traffic. "There is the chance of North Korea firing Scud, Rodong or KN-02 short-range missiles or coastal artillery," a military source here said.

Meanwhile, Korea's key diplomatic and security positions remain in limbo as parliament wrangles over President Park Geun-hye's government restructuring bill. The head of national security at Cheong Wa Dae, defense minister and head of the National Intelligence Service have yet to be appointed.

englishnews@chosun.com / Mar. 07, 2013 09:17 KST