DPRK attacks the new ROK defense chief

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The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) lambasted the new defense chief of the Republic of Korea (ROK) on Sunday for threatening to launch air strikes against the DPRK and accused the ROK of causing "uncontrollable, extreme" tension on the peninsula. 

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ROK Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told a confirmation hearing last week that jets would bomb the DPRK if it stages another attack like the shelling on an island that killed four people. Kim took office on Saturday, replacing a predecessor who resigned amid criticism that the ROK's response to the Nov 23 shelling was too slow and weak.

Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) issued a statement on Sunday accusing the ROK of staging a series of "frantic provocations" including the defense minister's remarks.

"The frantic provocations ... are rapidly driving the situation on the Korean Peninsula to an uncontrollable extreme phase," the KCNA said in a dispatch from Pyongyang.

The dispatch said the ROK plans to stage new naval drills with the United States soon, start its own live-fire drills from Monday and deploy missiles, rockets and other sophisticated weapons to the Yeonpyeong island that was hit by a DPRK artillery barrage.

"The puppet military warlike forces were reported to have already worked out the so-called retaliatory plan which calls for sparking off an armed clash after getting on the nerves of the (DPRK) military and taking a large-scale counteraction under this pretext," it said.

The ROK's military declined on Sunday to confirm whether it has such a military retaliation. Joint Chiefs of Staff officers only said a new joint drill with the US - which would follow last week's massive joint naval drill at Yellow Sea - is still under discussion with Washington and the live-fire exercise is a routine drill that has been scheduled well before the artillery barrage.

Kim inspected an army base near the heavily fortified land border on Sunday and urged troops to strengthen their combat capability and mental toughness, according to his office. A day earlier, he visited Yeonpyeong island and vowed to take strong measures to ensure the DPRK would not dare to make more provocations.

Skirmishes occur periodically along the disputed western maritime border, but the latest assault on Yeonpyeong island, home to both fishing communities and military bases, was the DPRK's first to target a civilian area since the 1950-1953 Korean War.

The attack came eight months after the deadly sinking of a ROK warship blamed on a DPRK torpedo attack - also near the tense maritime border. Forty-six sailors were killed and the DPRK has vehemently denied involvement.

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