'The South Korean military warned on Wednesday that if provoked by North Korea, it would strike the North's "command leadership," in a sharp escalation of a war of words that hinted at an attack on a North Korean headquarters.
The warning came a day after the North Korean People's Army threatened to attack the United States and its South Korean ally with "lighter and smaller nukes" – an outburst provoked by the United Nations Security Council's consideration of tough new sanctions on Pyongyang as punishment for its February nuclear blast.
North Korea's typically strident rhetoric has grown bolder following its successful recent tests of a long-range rocket and nuclear device, especially in the past week as the United States and South Korea started their joint annual military exercises.
South Korea usually does not respond to North Korean tongue-lashing, dismissing it as propaganda. But amid fears among officials and analysts here that North Korea might provoke a deadly skirmish to shake the new government of President Park Geun-hye and destabilize the region, the South Korean military called a news conference on Wednesday to deliver one of its most categorical public warnings in recent months.
"If North Korea attempts a provocation that threatens the lives and security of our people, our military will forcefully and decisively strike not only the origin of provocation and its supporting forces but also its command leadership," said Maj. Gen. Kim Yong-hyun, chief operations officer at the military's Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff. "We make it clear that we are all prepared."'