South Korea responded with its own threat after Pyongyang said it would abandon a non-aggression pact and issued the threat of a nuclear attack. Germany has appealed for the North to end its 'saber rattling.'
South Korea on Friday answered North Korea's threats of a possible nuclear attack against it, vowing that such aggression would spell the end for Pyongyang leader Kim Jong Un.
Seoul responded with a stark warning to the Kim regime. "If North Korea attacks South Korea with a nuclear weapon, Kim Jong Un's regime will perish from the earth," Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok told reporters in Seoul.
North Korea also threatened the US and South Korea, claiming the right to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike to defend itself from a nuclear attack on its soil.
The North's threats followed a United Nations Security Council decision to impose harsher sanctions on Pyongyang and impede its development of nuclear weapons.
End to 'saber rattling'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was said to be "very concerned" about Pyongyang's statements, urging the North Korean leadership to engage with the international community.
"If the North Korean regime decides that it wants to fulfill its responsibility to its own people and the world, then it only has to stretch out its hand," said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, meanwhile, urged China to use its influence on North Korea so that it would halt its "saber rattling."
Westerwelle welcomed the fact that China had supported the UN sanctions against the North but added: "It is also Beijing's responsibility to tell the powers in North Korea that, with these renewed threats, they have gone too far."
EU foreign affairs commissioner Catherine Ashton expressed regret over the North Korean aggression. "I repeat my call on the North Korean authorities to reflect and, instead of threats, put the welfare of their people first and choose a more constructive path, through re-engagement with the international community."
In February, Pyongyang confirmed it had successfully conducted its third nuclear test, following previous tests in 2006 and 2009. The UN Security Council has already passed resolutions banning the isolated country from developing nuclear and missile technology.
rc/hc (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)