South Korea's defence ministry on Wednesday also said the North was deliberately misinterpreting Seoul's objectives and remarks by its officials and told Pyongyang to stop its verbal attacks on Lee.

 

But on Thursday, Pyongyang continued with its rhetoric, accusing Seoul of driving inter-Korean relations to "catastrophe".

 

Escalating tensions

February 25 Lee Myung-bak takes office as South Korean president. Promises to end unconditional aid to North, saying Pyongyang must improve human rights and return Southerners held since the 1950-53 Korean War

 

March 26 South Korean military chief tells MPs military will strike suspected nuclear weapons site in North if Pyongyang attempts to attack South with atomic bombs

 

South Korean foreign ministry says it will back a UN resolution condemning North's human rights record, ending a decade of reluctance by previous administrations

 

March 27 Pyongyang expels South Koreans working at joint industrial zone in the North

 

March 28 North Korea test-fires missiles into sea and warns it will "mercilessly wipe out" any South Korean warships that violate its waters

 

March 29 North warns inter-Korean reconciliation may be in jeopardy, implements ban on South Korean officials entering the country 

 

March 31 North Korea threatens to turn the South to "ashes" after South's warning of pre-emptive strike in response to nuclear attack

 

April 1 North accuses South Korean president of being US stooge and causing instability on peninsula

 

April 2 South's defence ministry tells North to stop verbal attacks in first official response

 

See also
Timeline: The Two Koreas

"South Korea's conservative regime is driving the north-south relations to confrontation and catastrophe, blatantly swimming against the trend of the era of independence, reunification, peace and prosperity," a spokesman for the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland said in a statement.

 

It said the Korean peninsula was on the brink of another war because of reckless anti-North confrontational policies by the US and its South Korean "followers".

 

The North has called Lee a "conservative political charlatan", "traitor" and sycophant of the US for his tougher policies on the North, which includes linking aid to nuclear disarmament.

 
In its commentary, the Rodong Sinmun described Lee's policy towards the North as a "declaration of war", warning that he was "making a mess of the process to denuclearise the peninsula".
 
"Lee's seizure of power created a thorn bush in the way of the inter-Korean relations", it said, warning against misjudging "the patience and silence so far kept by" the North.
 
The escalating war of words has stoked tensions on the Korean peninsula.
 
Aside from the barbed rhetoric, recent days have also been marked by Pyongyang test-firing missiles, ejecting South Korean officials from a shared industrial zone, and accusing South Korean ships of breaching a disputed sea border last week.
 
Lee, who pledged a tougher line on ties with the North, has said that South Korean aid to the impoverished North will no longer be given unconditionally.
 
In a marked change from previous administrations he has also said that his government will not shy from criticising Pyongyang's human-rights abuses.