SEOUL: The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) said Tuesday it would use nuclear weapons in a "merciless offensive" if provoked - its latest rhetoric apparently aimed at deterring any international punishment for its recent atomic test blast.
The tensions emanating from Pyongyang are beginning to hit nascent business ties with the South: a Seoul-based fur manufacturer became the Republic of Korea's (ROK) first company to announce on Monday it was pulling out of an industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong.
The complex, which opened in 2004, is a key symbol of rapprochement between the two countries but the goodwill is evaporating quickly in the wake of the DPRK's nuclear test on May 25 and subsequent missile tests.
Pyongyang revived its rhetoric in a commentary in the state-run Minju Joson newspaper Tuesday.
"Our nuclear deterrent will be a strong defensive means ... as well as a merciless offensive means to deal a just retaliatory strike to those who touch the country's dignity and sovereignty even a bit," said the commentary, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
It appeared to be the first time that the DPRK referred to its nuclear arsenal as "offensive" in nature. Pyongyang has long claimed that its nuclear weapons program is a deterrent and only for self-defense against what it calls US attempts to invade it.
The tough talk came as the ROK and the US lead an effort at the UN Security Council to have the DPRK punished for its nuclear test with tough sanctions.
Seoul's Yonhap news agency reported Tuesday that the ROK had doubled the number of naval ships around the disputed sea border with the North amid concern the DPRK could provoke an armed clash there - the scene of skirmishes in 1999 and 2002.
Kim's eldest son speaks
A man believed to be the eldest son of Kim Jong-il said in an interview aired Tuesday he thinks reports that his youngest brother will become the country's next leader are true.
"Well, I hear the news by media. I think (it's) true," Kim Jong-nam said in an interview with Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi in Macao when asked about reports on the succession.
Japanese media aggressively follow the movements of Kim Jong-nam, who travels frequently to the Chinese mainland and Macao.
Last week, a ROK lawmaker and media outlets said the DPRK recently told its diplomatic missions that Kim Jong-il's 26-year-old youngest son - Jong-un - will be the communist nation's next leader.
"My father loves very much my brother as his son. I hope he can do his best for North Korean people for their happiness and better life," Jong-nam said. TV Asahi did not say when the interview took place.