N. Korea threatens 'merciless' retaliation on South

SEOUL - North Korea on Tuesday vowed "merciless" retaliation against the South for its support of UN sanctions, as Seoul urged Pyongyang to step back from a widely expected nuclear test.

The perennially tense situation on the Korean peninsula has been stretched to its limit in the past week, with almost daily threats from the North that it is preparing to conduct a nuclear test as a riposte to the expanded sanctions.

A lengthy commentary published Tuesday by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reiterated that the sanctions resolution passed by the UN Security Council was tantamount to a "declaration of war".

Noting what it called the South's "despicable" support for the resolution, KCNA said it was an act of gross provocation that would not go unanswered.

"The provokers will meet only merciless retaliatory blows," it said.

The commentary made no specific mention of the nuclear test that the North's top military body had explicitly signalled in a statement carried by KCNA last week.

The National Defence Commission had said the test was aimed at "arch-enemy" the United States, which had proposed the UN resolution penalising Pyongyang for a banned rocket launch in December.

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