S.Korea leader vows to strike back at North

South Korea's new president on Monday promised a strong military response to any North Korean provocation after Pyongyang announced that the two countries were now in a state of war.

President Park Geun-Hye's warning came as North Korea's rubber-stamp parliament formalised the country's status as a nuclear weapons state and appointed a sacked economic reformer for a fresh term as prime minister.

It also coincided with a US announcement that it had deployed stealth fighters to South Korea as part of an ongoing joint military exercise.

At a meeting with senior military officials and Defence Minister Kim Kwan-Jin, Park said she took the near-daily stream of bellicose threats emanating from the North over the past month "very seriously".

"I believe that we should make a strong and immediate retaliation without any other political considerations if (the North) stages any provocation against our people," she said.

Her defence minister made it clear that the South would carry out pre-emptive strikes against the North's nuclear and missile facilities in the event of hostilities breaking out.

"We will... establish a so-called 'active deterrence' aimed at neutralising the North's nuclear and missile threats quickly," Kim said.

The Korean peninsula has been caught in a cycle of escalating tensions since the North's long-range rocket launch in December which its critics condemned as a ballistic missile test.

United Nations sanctions were followed by a nuclear test in February, after which came more sanctions and apocalyptic threats from Pyongyang as South Korea and the United States conducted joint military drills.

Those threats have run the gamut from warnings of limited artillery bombardments to pre-emptive nuclear strikes, and have been met with counter-warnings from Seoul and Washington of severe repercussions.

The White House said Monday that despite the North's threats, North Korea had yet to back up its words with mass troop mobilizations or troop movements.

"Despite the harsh rhetoric we're hearing from Pyongyang, we are not seeing changes to the North Korean military posture, such as large-scale mobilizations and positioning of forces," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The US military said Monday it had deployed F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to South Korea as part of the ongoing "Foal Eagle" military exercise.

"The F-22s are advanced fighter aircraft and they're an important display of our commitment to the South Korean alliance," Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters in Washington.

"The North Koreans have a choice. They can continue to engage in provocations, with bellicose, overheated, irresponsible rhetoric, or they can choose the path of peace," he said.

North Korea has already threatened to strike the US mainland and US bases in the Pacific in response to the participation of nuclear-capable US B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers in the exercise.

Monday's gathering of the North's Supreme People's Assembly, or parliament, was notable for the promotion of a former premier who was sacked in a reported backlash against his pursuit of economic reforms.

Pak Pong-Ju, 74, was unanimously returned to the post of prime minister which he had previously held from 2003-2007, when he spearheaded modest economic reforms of state enterprises.

An apparent backlash from the party and the military saw him suspended from duty in June 2006 and sacked the following year.

The parliament also adopted an ordinance on "consolidating the position of nuclear weapons state for self-defence", KCNA said, fulfilling the party leadership's call a day before for the country's possession of nuclear weapons to be "fixed by law."

Sunday's gathering of the central committee of the ruling Workers' Party, which was chaired by leader Kim Jong-Un, had also insisted that the nuclear arsenal be beefed up "qualitatively and quantitatively".

On Saturday the North announced it had entered a "state of war" with South Korea and warned that any provocation would swiftly escalate into an all-out nuclear conflict.

It also threatened to shut down the joint-Korean Kaesong industrial complex, which is a crucial source of hard-currency revenue for Pyongyang and has been shielded from previous crises.

The border crossing to Kaesong, which lies 10 kilometres (six miles) inside the North, was functioning normally on Monday.

The operating stability of the complex is seen as a bellwether of inter-Korean relations, and its closure would mark a clear escalation of tensions beyond all the military rhetoric.

  • How a mom stole a car in under 60 seconds 6 hours ago
    How a mom stole a car in under 60 seconds

    “I didn't steal your car but I think my mom may have. It's a long story. I'll explain, but your car is safe and sound," read the flier posted in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It’s a strange tale that began when Cheyrl Thorpe was asked by her daughter Nekisia Davis to dog sit her Pomeranian at her apartment, according to New York Magazine.

  • All-new 2015 Subaru Outback reestablishes higher ground 8 hours ago
    All-new 2015 Subaru Outback reestablishes higher ground

    Much of Subaru’s modern day success in America can be attributed to one car: the Outback. Born in 1994 as a response to the growing popularity of SUVs, the Outback established a winning formula of combining a high-riding suspension, butch body cladding and big round fog lights to its comfortable, no-nonsense Legacy wagon. It is the kind of unique product that only a quirky company like Subaru could build, and was one that kept Subaru from slipping into ubiquity even as traditional SUVs and crossovers have taken over the world.

  • Custom faux-tique electric tram aims to replace New York's horses over the neigh-sayers 9 hours ago
    Custom faux-tique electric tram aims to replace New York's horses over the neigh-sayers

    For the record, it's the year 2014. I mention that in case someone reading this story about a push to replace horses with motorized carriages thinks they've stumbled onto some archival piece by accident. It's been more than 100 years since the first vehicles began to trundle around Manhattan, but the last remaining vestiges of horse-powered transport in the city could be nigh — if the backers of a massive electric wagon get their way.

  • Singaporeans slam NEA's $120 licence requirement for tissue sellers
    Singaporeans slam NEA's $120 licence requirement for tissue sellers

    Singaporeans on social media reacted angrily to news that tissue sellers at hawker centres and street corners are being required to pay for an annual licence.

  • ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says
    ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — The “huge” statues at a Hindu temple in Batu Caves and Buddhist temple in Penang are an affront to Islam as the religion forbids idolatry, a retired Court of Appeals judge...

  • Heartbreaking texts from students on sinking S. Korea ferry
    Heartbreaking texts from students on sinking S. Korea ferry

    Heart-wrenching messages of fear, love and despair, sent by high school students from a sinking South Korean ferry, added extra emotional weight Thursday to a tragedy that has stunned the nation. Nearly 300 people -- most of them students on a high school trip to a holiday island -- are still missing after the ferry capsized and sank on Wednesday morning. Mom, I love you," student Shin Young-Jin said in a text to his mother that was widely circulated in the South Korean media.