South Korea has issued a stark new warning to its northern neighbour as fresh joint military exercises begin off the Korean peninsula.
The manoeuvres this time involve some 45,000 US and Japanese soldiers, with South Korea there too as an observer.
All three countries are keen to rein in reclusive North Korea, while analysts see little hope for diplomacy.
Last week the situation deteriorated when four people were killed after Pyongyang shelled a South Korean island. Seoul returned fire minutes later.
South Korea’s new defence minister struck a defiant tone as he was confirmed in the post.
He said if North Korea were to provoke Seoul again, the south would reply with an air attack on the north.
But some citizens oppose South Korea’s involvement in the military manoeuvres, fearing it will exacerbate matters.
Around 50 held a peace rally in the port city of Kwangyang, as an American warship docked.