North Korea has threatened to “mercilessly” attack South Korea “without notice” in a fax sent via the two countries’ only military communication link.
The threat, addressed to the South’s presidential office, made reference to demonstrations against North Korea in Seoul on the anniversary of the death of the regime’s former leader Kim Jong-il.
During the protests, conservative groups repeatedly burnt effigies and photographs of the North’s current leader Kim Jong-un, an action that particularly upset the dictatorship.
The South Korean government has responded to the threat, sent from the North's National Defence Commission to South Korea's National Security Council, by vowing to “sternly react” to any provocations.
The National Security Council reportedly replied with a fax back promising “resolute punishment” to any attack.
A spokesperson for the South Korean Defence Ministry told The Wall Street Journal that there had not been any unusual signs in the North’s military activity, other than annual winter drills.
There is no email communication between the two countries, and no Cold War style military hotline between the two. In March the final telephone link was shut down by the North, in response to joint military drills by the South and US.