North Korea has executed its defence chief on treason charges after he fell asleep at an event attended by leader Kim Jong Un, South Korean media reported, quoting Seoul's National Intelligence Service.
North Korean Defence Minister Hyon Yong Chol was purged and then executed by firing squad in front of hundreds of officials, media reported.
Hyon was said to have shown disrespect to Kim by dozing off at a military event, the reports said, citing the intelligence agency's briefing with lawmakers.
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North Korea said it has test-fired a new anti-ship cruise missile, a move experts in Seoul see as an attempt to raise tensions ahead of joint military drills between the US and South Korea.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency said leader Kim Jong Un was on-site to observe the "ultra-precision" rocket being fired from a naval vessel in an exercise conducted by the country's East Sea fleet.
A Seoul-based security expert and an adviser to South Korea's navy, Yang Uk, said the North Korean missile looked similar to Russia's KH-35 anti-ship missile, which has a range of about 80-90 miles and is capable of travelling at high speeds while staying close to the sea's surface.
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North Korea said fresh US sanctions issued by President Barack Obama are 'hostile and repressive' policies by Washington.
President Obama issued an executive order authorising expanded sanctions against North Korea in the wake of the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which Washington blamed on Pyongyang.
In a statement from North Korea's foreign ministry on the state-run KCNA news agency the Communist country said: "The policy persistently pursued by the US to stifle North Korea, groundlessly stirring up bad blood towards it, would only harden its will and resolution to defend the sovereignty of the country."
It added: "The persistent and unilateral action taken by the White House to slap 'sanctions' against North Korea patently proves that it is still not away from inveterate repugnancy and hostility toward the country."
The United States has imposed new sanctions on North Korea in its first response to the cyber attack on Sony Pictures.
The sanctions, authorised by President Obama, targets three North Korean organisations as well as 10 individuals.
The FBI has blamed North Korea for the attack which leaked confidential data from Sony computers - an allegation Pyongyang has strongly denied.
"The order is not targeted at the people of North Korea, but rather is aimed at the government of North Korea and its activities that threaten the United States and others," President Obama wrote in a letter to House of Representatives and Senate leaders.
US sanctions against North Korea are already in place over the country's nuclear programme.
North Korean schoolchildren have celebrated the arrival of the new year with a production entitled 'We Are the Happiest in the World'.
North Korea has issued a statement condemning the United States after the release of "dishonest and reactionary" film The Interview.
In a message reported by the country's state news agency KCNA, Barack Obama's administration was accused of "zealous prodding" and warned of a "miserable fate to be faced by it in the future".
The statement from a spokesperson for the National Defence Commission went on to compare Obama to a "monkey in a tropical forest" and blamed the US for the North Korean internet outage last week, accusing its rival of "not knowing shame like children playing a tag".
With no rhetoric can the U.S. justify the screening and distribution of the movie. This is because "The Interview" is an illegal, dishonest and reactionary movie quite contrary to the UN Charter, which regards respect for sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs and protection of human rights as a legal keynote, and international laws.
Sony's comedy film The Interview grossed over $1 million on Christmas Day after the company decided to partially release it in US cinemas.
The distributor initially withdrew the film from cinemas last week after a cyber-attack that the FBI has blamed on North Korea - the nation whose leader is assassinated in the spoof film.
The Interview, the Sony Pictures film about a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, opened in more than 300 cinemas across the United States on Christmas Day.
It drew sell-out audiences in many movie theatres, where punters said they were championing freedom of expression.
Seth Rogen, who co-stars in the low-budget comedy with James Franco, and co-director Evan Goldberg surprised moviegoers by appearing at a screening in Los Angeles.
ITV News' Rebecca Barry reports.