North Korean forces have warned that they will shell a border island if South Korea holds a military drill there as planned, the North's state news agency KCNA said Thursday.
South Korea plans Friday to hold a military drill on Yeonpyeong island, which was shelled by the North in 2010, to mark the second anniversary of an attack that triggered fears of a full-scale conflict.
"The commemoration of the so-called victorious battle on Yonpyeong Island will lead to the second Yonpyeong Island disaster," said a Korean People's Army spokesman, as reported by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
"World history knows no precedent of commemorating a defeated battle. The projected ridiculous farce only invites derision and censure from people… Their scenario is to spark off a new war in the area," said KCNA.
Yeonpyeong lies just south of the border declared by UN forces after the 1950-53 Korean war, but north of a disputed sea border declared by Pyongyang's isolated authoritarian government.
The November 23, 2010 shelling of the island left two South Korean marines as well as two civilians dead in one of the most serious border incidents since the war that split the peninsula in two.
The army spokesman, cited by KCNA, said Northern troops regretted "failing to send the whole of the Yonphyeong Island to the bottom of the sea as the south Korean warmongers used islanders as a human shield."
"It is the steadfast will of the service personnel not to miss the opportunity to do so if the warmongers perpetrate another provocation."
South Korea's military went on top alert after the 2010 shelling, its troops responded with cannon fire and the government met in an underground war room.
The North said the attack was in response to a live-fire drill by the South, which, it claimed, had resulted in shells falling on its side of the disputed Yellow Sea border.
Friday's drill by the South will feature field and simulated exercises by marines stationed on Yeonpyeong island as well as other naval forces, a South Korean Marine Corps spokesman told AFP on Monday.
The spokesman had said the drill would not involve any live-fire exercises — a possible compromise aimed at averting a military response from Pyongyang.
Since the Yeonpyeong shelling, South Korea has increased troop numbers and upgraded its defences on frontline islands in the area.
There are widespread concerns in Seoul that North Korea will seek to provoke a confrontation ahead of the South's presidential election on December 19.
South Korean Marines take part in a a military exercise on Yeonpyeong Island in 2011.