- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2013

North Korea on Tuesday threatened to destroy South Korea and hinted at “stronger steps” after its third nuclear test last week, prompting a stern response from the Obama administration and European nations.

North Korean diplomat Jon Yong-ryong lashed out at a U.N. Conference on Disarmament session in Geneva in response to threats of further international sanctions over the blast and some of South Korea’s countermeasures such as expanded military drills.

“As the saying goes, a newborn puppy knows no fear of a tiger. South Korea’s erratic behavior would only herald its final destruction,” Mr. Jon said at the conference.

SEE ALSO: North Korea threatens South with ‘final destruction’ at U.N. talks

European and American officials quickly denounced Mr. Jon’s threats and warned that they would only lead to further punishments for the reclusive communist regime.

“[North Korea] will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia,” said State Department spokesman Noel Clay.

“We are extremely concerned by North Korea’s continued provocations and complete disregard of its international obligations,” said Iona Thomas, spokeswoman for Britain’s mission to the United Nations. “North Korea’s repeated provocations only serve to increase regional and international tension and hinder the prospects for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

There was no official response from China to Mr. Jon’s comment Tuesday. China provides North Korea with crucial economic aid.

However, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov provided a clue.

Russia is opposed to more economic sanctions on North Korea, Mr. Gatilov said at a news conference, according to a report by RT, a Russian news channel.

“We understand our Chinese colleagues have similar views,” he added.

North Korea lashed out most recently in response to threats of further international sanctions and South Korea’s alert for its armed forces since the Feb. 12 nuclear test.

The South began naval exercises Tuesday in the East Sea/Sea of Japan that had U.S. surveillance aircraft working with Seoul’s ships and submarines in the two allies’ third set of military drills since the North’s nuclear blast.

Mr. Jon said North Korea could follow its nuclear test with stronger steps.

“If the U.S. takes a hostile approach toward [North Korea] to the last, rendering the situation complicated, [North Korea] will be left with no option but to take the second and third stronger steps in succession,” he said, though he did not elaborate on these steps.

U.S. Ambassador Laura Kennedy wrote on Twitter that she found the threat against South Korea “offensive.”

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