N Korea confirms end of war armistice, takes sexist swipe at president of South

N Korea confirms end of war armistice, takes sexist swipe at president of South

SEOUL - Agence France-Presse
N Korea confirms end of war armistice, takes sexist swipe at president of South

A mobile artillery vehicle fires during a military exercise near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul, March 13, 2013. The White House on Monday expressed concern at what it called North Korea's latest provocations aimed at raising tensions and instability in Northeast Asia. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

North Korea confirmed Wednesday that it had shredded the 60-year-old armistice ending the Korean War, and warned that the next step was an act of "merciless" military retaliation against its enemies.

A lengthy statement by the North's armed forces ministry added to the tide of dire threats flowing from Pyongyang in recent days that have raised military tensions on the Korean peninsula to their highest level for years.

The statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency argued that the real "warmongering" was coming from the United States and its "puppets" in Seoul.

"They would be well advised to keep in mind that the armistice agreement is no longer valid and (North Korea) is not restrained by the North-South declaration on non-aggression," a ministry spokesman said.

"What is left to be done now is an action of justice and merciless retaliation of the army and people" of North Korea, the spokesman said.

Sexist swipe at South Korea president

North Korea took its first official swipe at South Korea's new president Wednesday, employing a well-known sexist phrase to paint Park Geun-Hye as overbearing and manipulative.

A lengthy statement attributed to a spokesman of the Armed Forces Ministry said South Korean officials were engaging in a round of "warmongering" orchestrated by the "poisonous swish" of the president's skirt.

The statement did not actually use Park's name or title, referring to her only as the current "owner" of the presidential Blue House in Seoul.

"Swish of the skirt" (or "chima baram") is a common, derogatory Korean term used to criticise women seen as overly bossy or domineering.

North Korea's propaganda machine had slammed Park repeatedly during the presidential campaign, warning that she would adopt the dictatorial methods of her father, the late military strongman Park Chung-Hee.

But Wednesday's official comment was the first since she was sworn in a little more than two weeks ago as the first female president of what remains a largely male-dominated country.

It also slammed recent comments by Park -- that the North's obsession with nuclear weapons would bring about its own collapse -- as "utter ignorance".

Addressing a lunch function on Wednesday, Park made no mention of the sexist slight and stressed her total commitment to ensuring national security.

"I will certainly safeguard the security of the Republic of Korea and its people no matter what sacrifices it takes," Park said, using the South's official name.

No peace treaty after Korean War

The North announced last week that it would nullify the 1953 armistice and peace pacts signed with Seoul in protest over joint South Korea-US military manoeuvres that began on Monday.

Because the Korean War was concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, the two Koreas have always remained technically at war.

Voiding the ceasefire theoretically opens the way to a resumption of hostilities, although observers note this is far from the first time that North Korea has announced the demise of the armistice.

The armistice was approved by the UN General Assembly, and both the United Nations and South Korea have repudiated the North's unilateral withdrawal.

"The terms of the armistice agreement do not allow either side, unilaterally, to free themselves from it," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

The North has also threatened to launch nuclear strikes against the United States and South Korea in response to fresh UN sanctions adopted after the North carried out its third nuclear test last week.

While the threats have been mostly dismissed as bluster, there are strong concerns that the North will attempt some form of military provocation in the coming weeks.

The South's Yonhap news agency on Wednesday quoted a senior military source as saying sorties by North Korean fighter jets in recent days had reached "unprecedented" levels, with around 700 counted on Monday alone.

As well as nullifying ceasefire agreements, the North severed a Red Cross hotline that was one of the few means of communication between Pyongyang and Seoul, which do not have diplomatic relations.

However, a spokeswoman for the presidential Blue House in Seoul said a military hotline was still operating.

"The military communication is working normally and we will seek to convey any message to the North via the channel when necessary," she said.