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North Korea responds angrily to South's talk of strike

North Korean soldiers with UN honour guard at border with South Korea
North Korea's nuclear programme has heightened regional tensions

North Korea has responded angrily to the South's suggestion that it could launch a pre-emptive strike against Pyongyang's nuclear facilities.

South Korea's defence minister had said this could occur if there were indications that the North was preparing a nuclear attack.

The North's official news agency said any attempt to do so would be treated as a declaration of war.

It added that it would be met with swift and decisive military action.

Tensions between the two nations rose after Pyongyang pulled out of six-party talks on its nuclear programme last April following widespread condemnation of a long-range missile launch.

International pressure grew following a nuclear test in May - which drew UN sanctions and further missile tests.

Conditions

The six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, plus the United States, China, Japan and Russia, began in 2003.

They seek to convince Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programme in return for aid and security guarantees.

Late last year, North Korea said it may be willing to return to the talks.

But earlier this month Pyongyang set down conditions, saying it would not return to the stalled talks until sanctions against it were lifted.



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