Pyongyang (North Korea): North Korea responded to an unusually harsh verbal attack by South Korea's president against the North's leader and its recent nuclear test and rocket launch with a characteristically colorful invective of its own on Saturday, calling her policy traitorous and adding that Washington's newly enacted sanctions are "laughable."
The North's official reaction including the insult "senile granny" was expected, though it took several days for Pyongyang to announce it through its state-run media.
North Korea regularly condemns South Korean President Park Geun-hye through sexist and violent language, saying recently that she lives upon "the groin of her American boss." But the renewed war of words has some worried that the tensions could lead to real conflict.
As evidence of heightened anxieties, sounds of explosions early on Saturday caused South Korean residents of a front-line island to prepare to evacuate, but it was later determined that the noise came from a North Korean artillery drill across the rivals' disputed maritime border. No North Korean projectiles crossed into the south side of the border.
Park has been backed up several high-profile demonstrations of US military might that are seen by Pyongyang as deliberate provocations.
A US B-52 bomber flew over the Korean Peninsula after the North's January 6 nuclear test and US F-22 stealth fighters were deployed to a an air base in South Korea after the February 8 rocket launch.
Next month, the US and South Korea are expected to hold larger-than-usual joint military drills.
The annual war games are a major source of tensions, since Pyongyang sees them as evidence that Seoul and Washington, which are still technically at war with the North because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, are planning an invasion.
The latest round of verbal volleys began in a speech to South Korea's parliament on Tuesday a major holiday in North Korea marking the birthday of Kim Jong Un's late father, Kim Jong Il when Park warned that North Korea must either change its ways or face the collapse of its regime.
The president added that Kim Jong Un's authoritarian government is an "extreme reign of terror" and used his name three times, something usually avoided at her level. It is believed that Kim has never referred to Park by name in his rare public speeches.
In yesterday's dispatch, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, called Park a "tailless, old, insane bitch" though the phrase was toned down to "dog" in the English version, which came out later in the day.
It also called her "a traitor for all times." Along with her pointed criticism of Kim Jong Un's regime, Park's government has also resumed cross-border propaganda broadcasts and shut down a factory park just north of the Demilitarized Zone that had been jointly run by the rivals.