North Korea warned on Friday that planned US-South Korean military drills are pushing the peninsula to the brink of war as a senior US military commander toured an island devastated this week by a North Korean artillery barrage.
North Korea's state news agency said that drills this weekend involving South Korean forces and a US nuclear powered supercarrier in waters south of Tuesday's skirmish between the rival Koreas are a reckless plan by "trigger-happy elements" and that the maneuvers target the North.
"The situation on the Korean peninsula is inching closer to the brink of war," the dispatch from the Korean Central News Agency said. "Gone are the days when verbal warnings are served only."
North Korea's army and people are "now greatly enraged" and "getting fully ready to give a shower of dreadful fire," the agency said. "Escalated confrontation would lead to a war, and he who is fond of playing with fire is bound to perish."
The comments came as Gen Walter Sharp, the US military commander in South Korea, paid a visit to the island targeted by the North Korean attack to show solidarity with ally Seoul.
Sharp, dressed in a heavy camouflage jacket and army fatigues and wearing a black beret, walked down a heavily damaged street strewn with debris from buildings. Around him were charred bicycles and shattered bottles of soju, a kind of Korean alcoholic drink.