South Korea urges North to stop all actions that are raising tensions on the peninsula

South Korean and US soldiers stand guard next to United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC) conference buildings at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) on July 27, 2017.
South Korean and US soldiers stand guard next to United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC) conference buildings at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) on July 27, 2017. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SEOUL (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - South Korea urged North Korea on Thursday (Aug 10) to stop all action that is driving up tension on the Korean Peninsula as the South's military warned the North that it would face a strong response if it carried through with a threat to launch a missile towards the United States territory of Guam.

South Korea's government also said it will seek all methods possible to resolving tensions with the cooperation of other countries.  The remarks were made by presidential Blue House spokesman Park Su Hyun in a media briefing after the standing committee of the Blue House’s National Security Council held a regular meeting to discuss recent events.  

Earlier on Thursday, North Korea dismissed warnings by US President Donald Trump that it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States as a “load of nonsense” and outlined detailed plans on for a missile strike near the US Pacific territory of Guam. 

North Korea's threats to strike Guam and turn Seoul into a "sea of fire" pose a serious challenge, a spokesman at South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters earlier on Thursday.

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South Korea's military is fully prepared for any action by North Korea, he said.

"We give a strict warning," the spokesman said. "If North Korea commits provocations despite our stern warning, it will face a strong response from South Korea's military and the US-South Korea alliance."

North Korea responded to US President Donald Trump's warning to unleash "fire and fury" by outlining a detailed plan to fire four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles at Guam by mid-August. The missiles would fly over southwestern Japan and land as close as 30km from Guam, the Korean Central News Agency reported.

"Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him," KCNA reported, citing a statement by a general of the Korean People's Army in response to Mr Trump. 

"The military action the KPA is about to take will be an effective remedy for restraining the frantic moves of the US in the southern part of the Korean peninsula and its vicinity."

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to calm tensions after Mr Trump's remarks, saying "Americans should sleep well at night".

Later, Defence Secretary James Mattis warned North Korea in a statement it would lose any conflict it initiates.

South Korea's government plans to hold a national security meeting later on Thursday to discuss North Korea's missile threat.

North Korea first fired a missile over Japan in 1998, prompting the Japanese government to  initiate its current ballistic missile-defence system with the US. While a second attempt failed in 2005, North Korea again succeeded in firing one in 2009 that flew over northern Japan and continued for another 3,000km before landing in the Pacific.

More recently, North Korean missiles have landed in the Sea of Japan, with some falling in Japan's exclusive economic zone that stretches 200km from its shores.

Japan has a two-layered ballistic missile defence system, consisting of ship-based SM-3 missiles, and land-based Patriot interceptors. It is also looking into the possibility of adding a third missile defence element.