SEOUL - North Korea issued new threats against South Korea on Tuesday, vowing "sledge-hammer blows" of retaliation if South Korea did not apologize for anti-North Korean protests the previous day when the North was celebrating the birth of its founding leader.
On Monday, the North dropped its shrill threats of war against the United States and South Korea as it celebrated the 101st anniversary of the birth of its first leader, Kim Il-Sung, raising hopes for an easing of tension in a region that has for weeks seemed on the verge of conflict.
The hint of a scaling back of the confrontation followed offers of talks with the isolated North from both the United States and the South.
But the North's KCNA news agency said on Tuesday the North Korean army had issued an ultimatum to the South after rallies in the South on Monday at which portraits of North Korea's leaders were burned.
"Our retaliatory action will start without any notice from now," KCNA reported, citing military leaders of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), as North Korea is officially known.
"The military demonstration of the DPRK's revolutionary armed forces will be powerful sledge-hammer blows at all hostile forces hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership."
South Korean media reported several small demonstrations in the capital, Seoul, on Monday. One television station showed pictures of a handful of protesters burning a portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.