But officials in Seoul played down security fears, noting that no foreign government has evacuated its citizens from either Korean capital. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was headed to Seoul on Friday for talks with South Korean officials on the tensions.
"North Korea has continuously issued provocative threats and made efforts to raise tension on the Korean peninsula ... but the current situation is being managed safely and our and foreign governments have been calmly responding," Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young told reporters Thursday.
The war talk is seen as a way for North Korea to draw attention to the precariousness of the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.
The Korean War ended in 1953 with a truce, not a peace treaty, and the U.S. and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations.
For weeks, the U.S. and South Korea have staged annual military drills meant to show the allies' military might. North Korea condemns the drills as rehearsal for an invasion.
In retaliation, North Korea for days barred South Koreans from crossing the border to get to factories in Kaesong where they make everything from shoes to suits using North Korean labor. Citing the tensions, North Korea on Monday pulled its more than 50,000 workers from the Kaesong complex, forcing many factories to stop production and jeopardizing the future of the last joint project between the two Koreas.
Discouraged South Korean managers continued leaving Kaesong, packing their cars with goods and belongings.
In Pyongyang, however, there was no sense of turmoil. Across the city, workers were rolling out sod and planting trees in preparation for a series of April holidays.
Students from Kim Chaek University of Science and Technology put on suits and traditional dresses to dance in the plaza next to the Arch of Triumph to mark Kim Jong Un's appointment as first secretary of the Workers' Party a year ago.
Another key appointment falls on Saturday, and flower show and art performances are scheduled in the lead-up to the nation's biggest holiday, the April 15 birthday of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, father of the country's second leader, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather of the current leader.
No military parade or mass events are expected over the coming week, but North Korea historically uses major holidays to show off its military power, and analysts say Pyongyang could well mark the occasion with a provocative missile launch.
"However tense the situation is, we will mark the Day of the Sun in a significant way," Kim Kwang Chon, a Pyongyang citizen, told The Associated Press, referring to the April 15 birthday. "We will celebrate the Day of the Sun even if war breaks out tomorrow."
During last year's celebrations, North Korea failed in an attempt to send a satellite into space aboard a long-range rocket. The U.S. and its allies criticized the launch as a covert test of ballistic missile technology.
The subsequent launch in December was successful, and that was followed by the country's third underground nuclear test on Feb. 12, possibly taking the regime closer to mastering the technology for mounting an atomic weapon on a long-range missile.
Associated Press writer Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.
Follow AP's Korea bureau chief on Twitter at twitter.com/newsjean.
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