South Korea's military warned Monday that it would "immediately punish the core forces of provocations" if provoked again by North Korea, as the North vowed to attack major South Korean media for insulting its top leader.
The South's warning came after its Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) held an unscheduled readiness exercise earlier in the day to check out its defense posture involving its ballistic missile command, front-line artillery units and the Air Force.
The South's military, which remains on heightened alert following a series of deadly North Korean provocations, vows to retaliate if attacked. Seoul, the South Korean capital city of more than 10 million people, lies within range of North Korean artillery and rockets.
"Throughout today's readiness exercise, we confirmed that our military has the ability and posture to immediately punish the core forces of provocations if provoked by the enemy," Maj. Gen. Lee Young-joo said.
Early last month, the North's military said its artillery has been targeting the Seoul headquarters of some major South Korean media outlets, which it accused of hurling unbearable insults at the country's new leader, Kim Jong-un.
It also denounced the South Korean government of President Lee Myung-bak for abetting the anti-Pyongyang media campaign.
North Korea has made similar verbal threats against South Korean media in the past, but this one is special in its specificity as the North listed the coordinates of some of the media offices.
Monday's exercise was ordered by South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin after Pyongyang ramped up its bellicose rhetoric, JCS officials said.
There has been concern that North Korea may soon conduct a third nuclear test to make amends for the failed launch of a long-range rocket on April 13. The North's previous two rocket launches in 2006 and 2009 were followed by nuclear tests.
On Saturday, North Korea said it has no plan to carry out a nuclear test "at present," but accused South Korea of trying to "rattle the nerves of the DPRK (North Korea) in a bid to cause it to conduct a nuclear test," according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
The two Koreas are still technically in a state of war, having signed no peace treaty at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against the North. (Yonhap)