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North Korea threatened a "pre-emptive" nuclear strike against the United States and any other aggressors on Thursday as the UN Security Council prepared to vote on new sanctions against the isolated state.
A foreign ministry spokesman also warned that a second Korean war was "unavoidable," with both the United States and South Korea refusing Pyongyang's demands to cancel a large-scale joint military exercise next week.
"Now that the US is set to light a fuse for a nuclear war, (our) revolutionary armed forces... will exercise the right to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors," the spokesman said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)
In the past, the North has threatened attacks on US forces in South Korea and also claims to possess long-range missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the continental United States.
The latest threat came two days after the North Korean military announced it would rip up the 1953 armistice agreement ending the Korean War -- a move that would theoretically pave the way for a resumption of hostilities.
Tensions have escalated sharply on the Korean peninsula in recent days, ahead of the UN Security Council vote and the annual US-South Korean military exercise scheduled to begin on Monday.
The Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution tightening the UN sanctions screws on North Korea after its widely condemned nuclear bomb test last month.
Amounting to one of the toughest sanctions regimes ever ordered by the United Nations, the resolution also threatens "further significant measures" if the North stages a new nuclear test or rocket launch.