SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea threatened Tuesday to turn South Korea into "debris" in an unusually strong statement that demanded Seoul halt what the communist state called its policy of confrontation.
It was issued amid worsening relations between the Koreas, with the North angry about anti-Pyongyang leaflets floated across the border by activists and defector groups based in the South.
Pyongyang has also complained about reports by South Korean media over the health of its leader Kim Jong-Il , who is said to have suffered a stroke.
"The puppet authorities (Seoul) had better bear in mind that the advanced pre-emptive strike of our own style will reduce everything... to debris, not just setting them on fire," the North's military said.
"It will turn out to be a just war... to build an independent reunified state on it," it added in a statement carried by the state news agency.
The military warned it would take "resolute practical action" if the South pursued its "confrontational racket" by spreading leaflets and conducting a smear campaign "with sheer fabrications."
It described its pre-emptive capability as "beyond imagination, relying on striking means more powerful than a nuclear weapon."
The statement was issued by a spokesman for North Korea's delegation to military talks with the South. The latest round was held Monday at their heavily-fortified border.
At those talks, the North again threatened to evict South Koreans from the Kaesong joint industrial complex unless Seoul stops the cross-border leaflets.
The North's military warned of a "total severance" of relations with the South if the conservative government in Seoul did not respect summit accords.
Its army -- reckoned to be 1.1 million strong -- was "a powerful military guarantee for the crucial decision to be made by our side," it added.
North Korea has already cut almost all official contacts with Seoul since President Lee Myung-Bak took office in February and adopted a tougher stance on cross-border ties.
After their first reconciliation summit in 2000, the two nations agreed to halt government-level propaganda, a feature of the Cold War era.
But Seoul-based private groups have continued their leaflet drops, despite pleas from the South Korean government and from businesses with factories in Kaesong.
On Monday, activists floated more than 40,000 leaflets by balloon from a boat near the eastern sea border.
They contained messages urging North Koreans to rise up against Kim, whom they described as a "murderous" dictator, and repeated claims that he suffers from paralysis following a reported stroke in August.
The two Koreas have remained technically at war since the 1950-53 conflict on the peninsula ended only in an armistice.