Ahead of a United Nations vote on new sanctions, North Korea cranked up its rhetoric and threatened to exercise its "right to pre-emptive nuclear attack." In a statement issued over the official KCNA news agency, North Korea's foreign ministry spokesman said:
"Since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war, we will be exercising our right to pre-emptive nuclear attack against the headquarters of the aggressor in order to protect our supreme interest."
The South Korean military also said on Wednesday that it would strike back at North Korea and target its top leadership if Pyongyang attacks.
Tensions have been increasing across the Korean peninsula ever since North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, who took office a year ago following the death of his father, launched a long-range rocket last December. This was followed up with a third nuclear test on February 12, which triggered the prospect of additional U.N. sanctions.
These new U.N. sanctions are due to be formally announced on Thursday after the U.S. and China, North Korea's one major diplomatic ally, struck a deal to punish Pyongyang.
Earlier this week, North Korea threatened to end the 60-year truce that ended the Korean war.
The current consensus is that North Korea does not yet have a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. They do, however, have smaller missiles, which they have shown off during military parades. South Korea's capital or Seoul is within range.