North Korea has demanded that the United States apologize for using the "nuclear stick," and threatened that it would not hesitate to take military action on South Korea "immediately and without notice."
North Korea said it would be willing to hold talks with the South only if the United States apologized for new U.N. sanctions that were imposed in response to a nuclear weapon test by Pyongyang in February.
"If the puppet authorities truly want dialogue and negotiations, they should apologize for all anti-DPRK hostile acts, big and small, and show the compatriots their will to stop all these acts in practice," North's state news agency KCNA said Tuesday, as North Korea marked the second day of festivities in honor of the April 15 birthday of its first leader, Kim Il Sung.
This was apparently in response to Washington's offer of talks on the pre-condition that the North abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. The statement added that the North is not against dialogue but did not want to sit at the "humiliating negotiating table with the party brandishing a nuclear stick."
Later on Tuesday, North Korea's state media quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman saying the North has no intention of holding talks with the U.S. unless it also abandons its hostility against the North, according to The Associated Press.
This comes a day after the North issued a threat to South Korea on Monday. "Our retaliatory action will start without any notice from now," KCNA said, noting actions would "start immediately."
South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said his country was closely monitoring moves by the North and would "thoroughly and resolutely punish North Korea if it launches any provocation for whatever reason."
The threats from North Korea come amid fears that the North is getting ready for a medium-range missile test. The North is apparently using protests by about 250 people in downtown Seoul – where effigies of Kim Il Sung and his late son and successor, Kim Jong Il were burned on Monday – as a pretext.
U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the North needs to make the first move. "They know what they need to do in terms of stopping their provocations and showing a seriousness of purpose, and so they know what's required of them," he was quoted as saying.
"The ultimatum is just North Korea's way of saying that it's not willing or ready to talk with the South," Chang Yong-seok at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University was quoted as saying. "North Korea apparently wants to keep the cross-border relations tense for some time to come."
"The United States remains open to authentic and credible negotiations on denuclearization, but the burden is on Pyongyang," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said. "North Korea must take meaningful steps to show that it will honor commitments it has already made, and it has to observe laws and the norms of international behavior."