The South Korean military leadership has reiterated its concerns over increasing threats from North Korea and asked the forces to be vigilant for any attack. Speaking on the occasion of the Lunar New Year, the army leaders have said tensions are high on the Korean peninsula due to Pyongyang's repeated bellicose actions.

Seoul's Defence Minister Han Min-koo has insisted the threats from the North are certainly "direct and realistic" and not to be taken lightly. He said the South Korean military should be fully prepared to handle any provocative act by the Kim Jong-un regime.

Speaking at a gathering at an army base to mark the start of Lunar New Year holidays, he said: "North Korea is making threats of nuclear development and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) this year as well. Pyongyang's missile threat against the Seoul metropolitan area where key facilities and population are concentrated is directly linked to the nation's security. Thus, there should be no weak point in preparation."

Analysts expect North Korea to carry out a missile test to coincide with the birthday of former leader and the current ruler's father Kim Jong-il that falls on 16 February.

The South Korean navy chief has also called for similar heightened vigilance in the region to counter any aggression from the North.

Kim recently said his country was on the verge of test-firing an ICBM, which is capable of reaching up to the US mainland. However, analysts are sceptical whether the North possesses such capabilities.