North Korea, once again threatened military action against the South and its President Lee Myung-bak - only this time, the threats have become much harsher, violent, and troubling.

On Monday, the New York Times reported, Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) broadcast a statement from the North Korean military that warned of imminent military action against the South:

The special actions of our revolutionary armed forces will start soon to meet the reckless challenge of the group of traitors...

They will reduce all the rat-like groups... to ashes in three or four minutes, in much shorter time, by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style.

This state-run news agency has also been circulating more anti-Lee articles, with statements such as The army and people of the DPRK [North Korea] will never pardon but mercilessly wipe out the Lee Myung Bak group of traitors

KCNA also cited anti-Lee slogans made at a rally of more than one thousand North Korean residents, soldiers, and workers held on Friday at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang.

Once an order is issued, we will rush to every place, be it the heart of Seoul, and behead and dismember Lee Myung Bak and wipe out his stooges, KCNA warned.

These violent threats have escalated in response to what the North Korean Foreign Ministry called malignant invectives uttered by traitor President Lee of South Korea towards the North, as KCNA reported on Sunday.

The invectives, that the Ministry was referring to were President Lee's recent critical remarks about the North's failed attempt to launch a rocket in direct defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Lee considered this launch - as well as recent lavish celebrations held to mark the centennial of the birth of North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung - as a huge waste of money. Money, he said, that could be used instead to feed North Koreans and help solve the country's food security problems.

His comments, however, came at an especially sensitive time in North Korea, given that they are both mourning for the late leader Kim Jong Il, and also observing national celebrations of the centenary of the country's founder, Kim il-Sung. These aspects, combined with the North Korean's likely embarrassment over the failed rocket launch, are what probably sparked these latest, particularly virulent, threats against the South.

Tension and back-and-forth slander and violent rhetoric are regular features of political life on the Korean Peninsula -- indeed, the two countries never actually signed a formal peace treaty, only an armistice, in 1953 following three years of civil war.

There is fear that this time, however, as the threats have became much more specific and belligerent, a violent outbreak or at least increased provocations from both sides is imminent.