North and South Korea beat the drums of war Thursday, with each threatening the other with immediate 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 front-line island shelled by the North last month. Angered by the exercises, North Korea threatened Thursday it would launch a "sacred" nuclear war if Seoul hit it and warned that even the smallest intrusion on its territory would bring a devastating response.
The two sides are still technically at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce not a peace treaty, and a U.S. governor who recently made an unofficial diplomatic mission to the North has said the situation on the peninsula is a "tinderbox" and the worst he had ever seen it.
Still, the latest rhetoric seemed likely to be just that, words aimed at stirring pride at home and keeping the rival at bay.
Defense 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" that indicated South Korea and the U.S. are plotting to invade the North.