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North Korea brandishes threats as UN debates Cheonan sinking

North Korea vowed a military response if the UN Security Council reprimands it for the sinking of the South Korean Navy's ship Cheonan. 
Fiery rhetoric from Pyongyang is common, but comes at a particularly tense time.

Intelligence officers from Asian and Pacific nations pass by wreckage from the South Korean Navy's ship Cheonan, in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, June 11. The ship was sunk near the maritime border with North Korea in March.

Jin Sung-chul/Yonhap/AP

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If rhetoric could kill, the Korean Peninsula would have been strewn with corpses Wednesday, felled by fresh verbal volleys from Pyongyang warning of nuclear war.

As it was, South Korea’s military dismissed the outburst as “routine rhetoric.” But tensions between the two Koreas are dangerously high at the moment.

So high, said North Korea’s main newspaper Rodong Sinmun in a commentary, that “a minor accidental incident could trigger an all-out war and develop into a nuclear war.”

The warning followed a veiled threat by North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Sin Son-ho, that if the UN Security Council reprimands Pyongyang for sinking a South Korean warship last March, “follow-up measures will be carried out by our military forces.”

North Korea denies having anything to do with the sinking of the Cheonan and the death of 46 seamen aboard. An international inquiry blamed Pyongyang for the attack, and Seoul has taken the issue to the Security Council.

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