The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 11, 2013

S. Korea, U.S. begin drills as N. Korea threatens war

— North Korean state media said Monday that Pyongyang had carried through with a threat to cancel the 60-year-old armistice that ended the Korean War, as it and South Korea staged dueling war games amid threatening rhetoric that has risen to the highest level since North Korea rained artillery shells on a South Korean island in 2010.

Enraged over the South's joint military drills with the United States and recent U.N. sanctions, Pyongyang has piled threat on top of threat, including vows to launch a nuclear strike on the U.S. Seoul has responded with tough talk of its own and has placed its troops on high alert.

The North Korean government made no formal announcement Monday on its repeated threats to scrap the armistice, but the country's main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, reported that the armistice was nullified Monday as Pyongyang had earlier announced it would.

The North followed through on another promise Monday, shutting down a Red Cross hotline that the North and South used for general communication and to discuss aid shipments and separated families' reunions.

The 11-day military drills that started Monday involve 10,000 South Korean and about 3,000 American troops. Those coincide with two months of separate U.S.-South Korean field exercises that began March 1.

The drills are held annually, and this year, according to South Korean media, the "Key Resolve" drill rehearses different scenarios for a possible conflict on the Korean peninsula using computer-simulated exercises. The U.S. and South Korean troops will be used to test the scenarios.

Also continuing are large-scale North Korean drills that Seoul says involve the army, navy and air force. The South Korean defense ministry said there have been no military activities it considers suspicious.

The North has threatened to nullify the armistice several times in times of tension with the outside world, and in 1996 the country sent hundreds of armed troops into a border village. The troops later withdrew.

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