N. Korea warns of 'catastrophic consequences' over UN rights ruling

SEOUL - North Korea's top military body warned Sunday of "catastrophic consequences" for supporters of a UN resolution censuring its human rights record, as state media reported its leader presiding over a fresh military exercise.

A resolution urging the United Nations Security Council to refer the North's leadership to the International Criminal Court for possible charges of "crimes against humanity" passed by 111 to 19 with 55 abstentions at a UN General Assembly human rights committee last week.

The resolution, introduced by Japan and the European Union and co-sponsored by some 60 nations, drew heavily on the work of a UN enquiry which concluded in February that the North was committing rights abuses "without parallel in the contemporary world".

The North since then has repeatedly slammed the resolution as a political "fraud". On Thursday it warned that it was being pushed into conducting a fresh nuclear test.

The National Defence Commission (NDC), chaired by the country's leader Kim Jong-Un, said Sunday the resolution amounted to a "war declaration" which "dared take issue with the dignity of our supreme leadership".

The resolution makes no mention of Kim but notes the UN enquiry's finding -- that the "highest level of the state" has responsibility for the rights abuses.

The dignity of its leader "cannot be bartered for anything", the NDC said in a statement, adding that Japan as well as South Korea and the US - co-sponsors of the UN resolution - were Pyongyang's "primary target."

"The US and its followers will be wholly accountable for the unimaginable and catastrophic consequences to be entailed by the frantic 'human rights' racket against the (North)," it said.

As Pyongyang ramped up its threats, Kim guided a major military drill involving sea transport and amphibious landing craft, the state-run news agency KCNA said.

The NDC also said that South Korean President Park Geun-Hye would not be safe "if a nuclear war breaks out" on the Korean peninsula, and its attacks could make Japan "disappear from the world map for good".

The isolated state has staged three atomic tests -- most recently in 2013, which was its most powerful test to date.

Last week the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said on its 38 North website that new satellite imagery suggested Pyongyang may be firing up a facility for processing weapons-grade plutonium.

South Korea said last week its military was on standby, and the US Thursday described the North's renewed threat of a nuclear test as a "great concern".

Sunday's threat and the report of Kim's military trip coincided with the anniversary of Pyongyang's shock bombardment of a border island that killed four South Koreans.

The shelling of Yeonpyeong island in 2010 was the first such attack on civilians since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War and briefly sparked fear of all-out conflict.

Seoul's military, which since then has reinforced troops and weaponry on the island, on Friday staged a live-fire exercise there as part of a major annual nationwide drill.

The North reacted angrily to the drill, accusing the South of pushing the peninsula to the "brink of war."

The South's Hoguk exercise, which ended on Friday, involved a record number of 330,000 troops this year.