SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's vow to abandon all peace agreements with Seoul drew a mild response from South Korea's president, who continued to express optimism that the rivals could hold negotiations soon.
President Lee Myung-bak dismissed the North's claim that his government's tougher policies were pushing the divided peninsula toward armed conflict.
"I hope North Korea understands that (South Korea) has affection toward the North, and I think that the two Koreas can hold negotiations before long," Lee said Friday.
Lee's comments came hours after the North vowed to abandon a nonaggression pact and all other peace agreements with South Korea. The communist country also said it would not respect a disputed sea border with the South.
Lee described the North's remarks as "not unusual" and indicated Seoul will wait until North Korea is ready for talks in good faith.
However, Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University, said the North's comments could presage military moves. "This signals that North Korea will stage a provocation" _ probably near the maritime border, he said.
South Korea's Defense Ministry said its troops remain on alert along its land and sea borders, although there were no unusual moves by the North's military.
The North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Saturday repeated accusations that South Korea is preparing to wage war and warned it will pay a price for aggravating inter-Korean ties.
"Dialogue and confrontation, co-prosperity and war can never go side by side," the paper said in a commentary carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency.
The North's military earlier this month said it had adopted an "all-out confrontational posture" to rebuff any southern aggression. South Korea denied plotting any attack.
The two Koreas technically remain at war because their three-year conflict ended in 1953 with a truce, not a peace treaty. The peninsula remains divided by a heavily fortified border, with thousands of troops stationed on both sides.