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North Korea vows attacks without notice

South Koreans peek through a military fence, which visitors have decorated with ribbons in hopes of reunification of the two Koreas, on Monday, April 15, 2013, near the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea in Paju.

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By Reuters
Monday, April 15, 2013, 7:30 p.m.

SEOUL — North Korea made new threats of military action on Monday as the reclusive nation celebrated the anniversary of its founder's birth, stoking tension on the peninsula with a new “ultimatum” to South Korea in the standoff over its nuclear program.

The latest statement from Pyongyang followed threats of nuclear attacks on the United States, South Korea and Japan, after U.N. sanctions were imposed in response to Pyongyang testing a nuclear weapon in February.

“Our retaliatory action will start without any notice from now,” North Korea's state news agency KCNA said, noting actions would “start immediately.”

The statement was issued by the official North Korean news agency KCNA after signs that Pyongyang may be presenting a less warlike stance on the “Day of the Sun,” the date the North's founder Kim Il-Sung was born.

Although many Pyongyang watchers had expected a big military parade to showcase North Korea's armed forces, the day was marked in Pyongyang with a festival of flowers named after Kim.

The United States has offered talks, but on the pre-condition that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. North Korea deems its nuclear arms a “treasured sword” and has vowed never to give them up.

Nevertheless, Secretary of State John Kerry, ending a trip to the region dominated by concern about North Korea, stressed his interest in a diplomatic solution.

“The United States remains open to authentic and credible negotiations on denuclearization, but the burden is on Pyongyang,” he said. “North Korea must take meaningful steps to show that it will honor commitments it has already made, and it has to observe laws and the norms of international behavior.”

On Sunday evening, Kerry appeared to open the door to talking without requiring the North to take denuclearization steps in advance. Beijing, he said, could be an intermediary.

But White House spokesman Jay Carney said North Korea would have to “commit itself in a verifiable way to denuclearization” first, which has long been the U.S. position.

The aim of the North's aggressive acts, analysts say, is to bolster the leadership of Kim Jong Un, the 30-year-old grandson of the nation's founder, or to force the United States to hold talks with the North.

The North also has been angry about annual military exercises between U.S. and South Korean forces, describing them as a “hostile” act.

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