North Korea warns 'imbecile' Park of confrontation

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea's top military body lashed out on Friday at South Korean President Park Geun Hye, warning that she was leading the Korean peninsula back into confrontation and vowing that Pyongyang would pursue its nuclear weapons policy.

The highly personal criticism, attributed to a spokesman for the National Defence Commission, was unusual for referencing Ms Park by name, rather than the usual "chief executive" moniker employed by Pyongyang.

It was largely a response to Ms Park's speech marking South Korean Armed Forces Day this week when she urged Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions and talked up the development of a military deterrent capability that would render the North's nuclear weapons "useless".

On Wednesday, visiting US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and his South Korean counterpart Kim Kwan Jin signed a new strategic plan to counter the growing threat of a North Korean nuclear or chemical weapons attack.

"There will be no bigger fool and poorer imbecile than the one who schemes to side with a nuclear-wielding robber and urge one's own kinsmen to lower a knife first," the National defence Commission spokesman said.

South Korea is protected by the US nuclear umbrella and there are currently nearly 30,000 US troops stationed in the country.

In a despatch carried by the North's official KCNA news agency, the spokesman said North Korea would "invariably advance" its development of nuclear weapons, saying they were a vital deterrent to prevent a US nuclear strike.

"If Park and her group conspire with outsiders under the pretext of leading (North Korea) to "change" ... and force it to dismantle nuclear weapons, it will be little short of digging their own graves," he added.

The harsh tone of the spokesman's remarks harked back to the bellicose rhetoric employed by Pyongyang during several months of heightened tensions that followed the North's third nuclear test in February.

Those tensions appeared to have eased of late, but a promising flurry of cross-border cooperation has since run out of steam.

The spokesman "sternly" warned Ms Park that "the hard-won atmosphere of dialogue and peace is turning into that of confrontation and tension".

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