PYONGYANG, North Korea -- North Korea delivered a fresh round of rhetoric Thursday with claims it had ``powerful striking means'' on standby for a missile launch, while Seoul and Washington speculated that the country is preparing to test a medium-range missile during upcoming national celebrations.
On the streets of Pyongyang, meanwhile, North Koreans celebrated the anniversary of leader Kim Jong Un's appointment to the country's top party post - one in a slew of titles collected a year ago in the months after father Kim Jong Il's death.
In the capital of neighboring South Korea, the country's point person on relations with the North, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae, urged Pyongyang to cool down, engage in dialogue and reverse its decision to suspend operations of a joint industrial park just north of their shared border.
``We strongly urge North Korea not to exacerbate the crisis on the Korean peninsula,'' Ryoo said.
The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, a nonmilitary agency that deals with relations with South Korea, said its ``striking means'' have been ``put on standby for a launch and the coordinates of targets put into the warheads.'' It didn't clarify further. The statement was the latest in a torrent of warlike threats seen outside Pyongyang as an effort to raise fears and pressure Seoul and Washington into changing their North Korea policy.
Officials in Seoul and Washington say Pyongyang appears to be preparing to test-fire a medium-range missile designed to reach the U.S. territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.
Such a launch would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from nuclear and ballistic missile activity, and mark a major escalation in Pyongyang's standoff with neighboring nations and the U.S.
North Korea already has been punished in recent months for launching a long-range rocket in December and conducting an underground nuclear test in February.
Analysts do not believe North Korea will stage an attack similar to the one that started the Korean War in 1950. But there are concerns that the animosity could spark a skirmish that could escalate into a serious conflict.