North Korea threatened on Saturday to wage a 'sacred war' in response to joint military exercises planned by its arch-rival South Korea and the United States, saying it was determined to keep Washington from imposing its political will on it.
The statement was issued by the North's National Defence Commission a day after the secretive state held its first round of talks with the United States since the young and untested Kim Jong-un took office in December upon the death of his father.
"Now that a war has been declared against us, the army and people are firmly determined to counter it with a sacred war of our own style...," said the statement, carried by the state KCNA news agency.
"The U.S. imperialists are the sworn enemy keen to launch another war of aggression to impose an 'American style political mode' upon us...." The sacred war, it said, would use "strong means unknown to the world".
Pyongyang has periodically used the term "sacred war" to counter what it sees as a threat from the South and its US ally.
The United States and South Korea have scheduled to separate sets of war games next week. The North raised its level of military alert since the allies staged a live-fire artillery drill last week near a disputed sea border off the west coast -- also near a South Korean island bombarded by the North after a similar drill in 2010.
The latest drill, described by the South as routine, took place without incident.
On Friday, US special representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies ended two days of talks with his North Korean counterpart in Beijing aimed at leading to resumed six-way talks to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear programme.
Addressing reporters in Seoul on Saturday after briefing South Korean officials, Davies said the talks, the first since the death of longtime leader Kim Jong-il, were "a good beginning with the new government in the DPRK (North Korea)."
He reaffirmed the strong links between South Korea and the United States -- which has about 28,000 troops in the country.
In Beijing, Davies told reporters that the talks had covered nuclear non-proliferation, Pyongyang's demands for food aid and other issues at the heart of regional tension. The two parties, he said, had made "a little bit of progress".
The attack on the island of Yeonpyeong in November 2010, in which four people, including two civilians, were killed, was the first on civilians since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
The two sides are technically still at war having signed only a truce, not a peace treaty, to end that conflict.