SEOUL, March 2 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's military threatened Friday to launch a "sacred war" against South Korea over alleged defamation of its leadership.
The latest harsh rhetoric comes despite cautious optimism following a nuclear deal between North Korea and the United States. It also came hours after South Korea's point man on North Korea urged Pyongyang to accept Seoul's recent offers for talks.
The North claimed Friday that a South Korean army unit in the western port of Incheon scrawled unspeakable defamatory words below portraits mocking the North's leaders carelessly hung on walls and doors.
The Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army warned in a statement that it "will indiscriminately stage its own-style sacred war to wipe out the group of traitors."
The North's "sacred war with main emphasis on physical attack" would continue until all acts hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the North are brought to an end, according to the statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
North Korea has recently ratcheted up verbal threats against South Korea over its ongoing military exercises with the U.S. that Pyongyang says are rehearsals for a northward invasion.
A South Korean military unit in Incheon posted two photos of North Korea's late leader Kim Jong-il and his youngest son, new leader Kim Jong-un, inside a building with a sign that read "let's kill Kim Jong-un," according to local media.
Defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in Seoul that it is "very inappropriate" for the North to issue a threat, noting Seoul did not protest any of the North's slandering. He also said the North's warning is "not worthy of a response."
North Korea has frequently called South Korean President Lee Myung-bak a "traitor" for having aggravated inter-Korean ties.
The North has bristled at any outside criticism of its leader and has made similar verbal threats against the South for leaflets over the past several months, although no actual attack has occurred.
North Korea's late founder Kim Il-sung and his late son, former leader Kim Jong-il, are the subjects of a massive cult of personality.
North Koreans continue to refer to the country's founder as the "eternal president" and frequently visit his towering bronze statue overlooking Pyongyang on major holidays.
North Korea appears to be making a new large statue of Kim Jong-il which will go on Mansu Hill next to the one of his late father, Hannah Barraclough, tour manager of Koryo Tours, a Beijing-based agency that specializes in trips to North Korea, said of her trip to the North last month.
Her comment was posted on the Web site of CanKor, a Canadian interactive resource on North Korea.
In January, the North said it will erect Kim Jong-il's statue as well as put his portraits and build "towers to his immortality" across the country in what could be an attempt to strengthen his personality cult and justify the dynastic power succession to his son, Kim Jong-un.
The younger Kim became the supreme commander of the country's 1.1 million-strong military soon after his father's sudden demise in December as part of his attempts to consolidate his power.
The communist country also praised new leader Kim Jong-un as "the brilliant commander" and "another peerless patriot."
Pyongyang has agreed to freeze its uranium-enrichment facilities and temporarily halt its nuclear and long-range missile tests, apparently in exchange for 240,000 tons of food aid under a recent deal with the U.S.