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North Korea Threatens to Turn South Into 'Debris'


North Korea is warning South Korea of a pre-emptive strike that will turn the South into "debris," if Seoul does not stop what the North calls "a policy of confrontation." As VOA's Seoul Correspondent Kurt Achin reports, the North's anger revolves mainly around leaflets that have been launched into the North recently by human rights groups.

North Korea threatened military force against South Korea, Tuesday, a day after South Korean civic groups sent tens of thousands of leaflets into the North by balloon.

A commentary carried by North Korea's official news agency warned of an "advanced pre-emptive strike of our own style" that "will reduce everything... to debris, not just setting it on fire." That wording echoes threats from North Korea in previous years to turn the South Korean capital into a "sea of fire."

North Korea has often denounced the administration of conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak as a "gang of traitors" - but Tuesday's statement uses some of the most explicit military-themed language since Mr. Lee took office in January. The commentary warns North Korea's attack would "turn out to be a just war... to build an independent reunified state."

A day earlier, the North threatened to suspend a joint North-South industrial project, if Seoul did not prevent the ongoing launches of leaflets into the North by civic groups. That same day, human rights activists launched some 40,000 leaflets by helium balloon from waters east of the Korean Peninsula.

The leaflets are sharply critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and include information from recent reports that he may be recovering from a stroke.

South Korean Unification Ministry Spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun says officials are trying to persuade the groups behind the leaflet launches to hold off.

He says the government is asking the human rights groups for their help in easing tension. However, he says that scattering the leaflets is reasonable when it is done in a legal manner -- and that South Korea will act according to the law.

Park Sang-hak is the president of the Seoul-based North Korea Freedom Coalition and a key organizing figure of the balloon launches.

He says he will be meeting this week with officials from South Korea's presidential Blue House. However, he says he has no intention of stopping the balloon launches, which he says are legal.

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