Kim Jong Il 311.
(photo credit: AP)
North Korea warned the South Sunday it would stage a "merciless" retaliation against the joint South Korean-US military maneuvers planned this week.
After South Korea's president called on the North to embrace "courageous change" toward peace, the North Korean military responded by saying their retaliation would be "the severest punishment no one has ever met in the world," and a "merciless counterblow to US imperialists and the Lee Myung-bak group of traitors."
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President Lee Myung-bak made the offer even as relations between the two Koreas are at their lowest point in years following the March sinking of a South Korean warship, which Lee said Sunday was "unprovoked attack" by North Korea.
"The North must never venture to carry out another provocation, nor will we tolerate it if they do so again," Lee said.
President Myung-bak's comments came at a ceremony celebrating the liberation of the Korean peninsula from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule with the Aug. 15, 1945 surrender to the Allied forces.
As all of Asia stopped to remember the end of World War II, the Japanese prime minister apologized for wreaking suffering on the region, and the South Korean president said Tokyo's remorse was a step in the right direction.
"We caused great damage and suffering to many nations during the war, especially to the people of Asia," Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Sunday before a crowd of about 6,000, including Emperor Akihito, at Budokan hall.
"However, there still remain issues that have to be resolved," he said, without elaborating. "The two countries are called upon to take concrete measures to forge a new relationship for another 100 years."
Many older Koreans still harbor resentment against Japan over the colonization. Hundreds of thousands of Koreans were forced to fight as front-line soldiers, work in slave-labor conditions or serve as prostitutes called "comfort women" in brothels operated by the military.
Later Sunday, about 50 women rallied in front of the Japanese Embassy in
Seoul, chanting slogans and demanding compensation for former comfort
women and other Korean victims of colonial rule.
Reflecting a common sentiment among Koreans, activist Lee Kang-sil criticized Japan's apology as "lacking in action."
Such hard feelings were also evident in China, where about 300 people
gathered in the eastern city of Nanjing, to remember the victims of the
1937 "Nanjing Massacre," known in the West as the "Rape of Nanking," in
which Japanese soldiers killed tens of thousands of civilians.