North Korea says it is prepared for war, in the latest sharpening of its rhetoric against South Korea and the United States. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to discuss the North's apparent plans to test a long-range missile during her visit to the South's capital.
Thursday's statement from North Korea's official news agency warns South Korean leaders - who it calls a "group of traitors" - that the North's army is "fully ready for an all-out confrontation."
Pyongyang also says South Korea and the United States will pay a "high price" for conducting joint military drills on the Korean peninsula next month, which the North views as a rehearsal for an invasion. American military leaders say Operation Key Reserve and Foal Eagle are a purely defensive drill held every year. About 28,000 U.S. forces are stationed in South Korea to deter any repeat of the North's 1950 invasion of the South.
The latest threats come as experts warn North Korea could be days or weeks away from test-launching a ballistic missile possibly capable of reaching U.S. territory. North Korea hinted it would proceed with the launch this week, when it reasserted its right to "space development." Similar rhetoric preceded its 2006 test launch of a long range missile.
South Korean Unification Minister Hyun In-taek told lawmakers, Thursday, a North Korean launch would not benefit the impoverished nation.
He warns what he calls North Korea's unlawful action would lead to the country's further isolation.
The possible launch, as well as efforts to get rid of North Korea's nuclear weapons, is expected to dominate talks between South Korean leaders and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Friday.
Scott Snyder, director of the Center for U.S.-Korea policy, says there is plenty of buzz surrounding Clinton's visit.
"It's the first time in a long time that we've had a political secretary of state," Snyder said. "There's going to be a lot of interest in her, as a personality, here."
Snyder says Clinton's main task will be to reassure South Korea that President Barack Obama is not neglecting the region's affairs.
"It sort of seemed in the first few weeks that Asia was getting lost in the administration's agenda," Snyder said. "So, I think her visit has been a catalyst for recognition that issues like North Korea cannot be completely left off the table."
Clinton is also scheduled to receive an honorary degree at a South Korean women's university, before departing for Beijing, Friday.