North Korea said on Tuesday (October 8) its military would be put on high alert and be ready to launch operations, stepping up tension after weeks of rhetoric directed against theUnited States and South Korea, who it accuses of instigating hostility.

Reclusive North Korea has often issued threats to attack the South and the United States but has rarely turned them into action. Such hostile rhetoric is widely seen as a means to perpetuate its domestic and international political agenda.

In the latest outburst, a spokesman for the North's military warned the United States of "disastrous consequences" for moving a group of ships, including an aircraft carrier, into a South Korean port.

In March, the North declared it was no longer bound by the armistice that ended fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War signed with the United States and China, threatening to use nuclear weapons to attack U.S. and South Korean territories.

The United States, which has 28,500 troops stationed in the South, regularly engages in drills with its ally, and has said the aircraft carrier USS George Washington was leading a group of ships to visit South Korea in a routine port call.

South Korea's Defence Ministry said on Monday the ships were taking part in a routine maritime search and rescue exercise and said any criticism by North Korea was "wrong".

Presented by Adam Justice

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