Korean military exercise escalates bitter war of words

North and South Korea beat the drums of war yesterday, each threatening the other with swift retaliation if attacked.

Seoul has staged days of military drills in a show of force meant to deter North Korea, including live-fire exercises earlier this week on a frontline island shelled by the North last month. Angered by the exercises, North Korea threatened on Thursday that it would launch a "sacred" nuclear war if Seoul hit it, and warned that even the smallest intrusion would bring a devastating response.

Defence chief Kim Yong Chun said North Korea is "fully prepared to launch a sacred war" and would use its nuclear capabilities, calling Monday's drills a "grave military provocation".

Kim told a national meeting in Pyongyang that the North's military will deal "more devastating physical blows" to its enemies if they cross into the North's territory.