BY Kenneth R. Bazinet and Michael Saul
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
North Korea threatened Wednesday to launch a "thousand-fold" military retaliation against the United States and its allies if the rogue nation's sovereignty is breached, marking the latest escalation of saber-rattling.
"If the U.S. and its followers infringe upon our republic's sovereignty even a bit, our military and people will launch a one hundred- or one thousand-fold retaliation with merciless military strike," the government-run Minju Joson newspaper said in a commentary.
The opinion piece, which was distributed by the official Korean Central News Agency, also blasted Obama as "a hypocrite" for supporting a nuclear-free world while making "frantic efforts" to produce new nuclear weapons at home.
"The nuclear program is not the monopoly of only the U.S.," it said.
On Tuesday, Obama said he was tired of North Korea's 's threats.
"There's been a pattern in the past where North Korea behaves in a belligerent fashion, and if it waits long enough, is then rewarded with foodstuffs and fuel and concessionary loans and a whole range of benefits," Obama said, amid meetings and a working lunch with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
"The message we're sending - and when I say 'we,' not simply the United States and the Republic of Korea, but I think the international community - is we are going to break that pattern," Obama promised.
The State Department says the U.S. has pumped more than $1 billion into North Korea since 1995, with the bulk of the cash devoted to buying food.
Obama reiterated his commitment to work "vigorously" to keep weapons of mass destruction away from North Korea's Lilliputian leader, Kim Jong Il.
"Given their past behavior, given the belligerent manner in which they are constantly threatening their neighbors, I don't think there's any question that that would be a destabilizing situation that would be a profound threat not only to U.S. security but to world security."
A defiant Pyongyang has detonated nuclear devices underground, conducted repeated ballistic missile tests and recently jailed two Americans. Journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, the sister of broadcaster Lisa Ling, were sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp for illegally entering the country.
Standing Tuesday beside Obama, a confident Lee declared the U.S.-South Korean alliance is ready to respond to any threat.
"North Koreans, when they look at the firm cooperation between our two countries they will think twice about taking any measures that they regret," Lee said.
Obama said, "There is another path available to North Korea, a path that leads to peace and economic opportunity for the people of North Korea, including full integration into the community of nations."
Obama also confirmed U.S. warships will intercept vessels suspected of hauling weapons from the Communist country. North Korea exports missiles and other weapons around the globe.