N.Korea scraps pact, South stages drill amid tensions

N.Korea scrapped a pact aimed at preventing accidental armed clashes as S.Korea staged an anti-submarine exercise.

N.Korea scraps pact, South stages drill amid tensions

North Korea Thursday scrapped a pact aimed at preventing accidental armed clashes with South Korea at their flashpoint border, as tensions continued to rise over the sinking of a warship.

Pyongyang's general staff also warned of an immediate attack if the South's navy violates the disputed Yellow Sea borderline, and repeated threats to shut down a joint business project.

Elsewhere in the Yellow Sea, South Korea's navy staged an anti-submarine exercise in its first show of strength since Seoul publicly accused Pyongyang of torpedoing one of its warships on March 26 with the loss of 46 lives.

Investigators from five countries said last week they found "overwhelming evidence" that a torpedo attack by a North Korean submarine sank the Cheonan near the border.

"Completely null and void"

The South has announced a series of reprisals including a halt to trade. The North, which denies involvement, has responded with angry rhetoric and an announcement that it is cutting all ties with its neighbour.

The North's military said agreements on forestalling accidental conflicts would be declared "completely null and void".

The general staff said it was scrapping military safety guarantees for South Koreans crossing the border, and would consider a complete block on access to the Kaesong joint industrial estate in its territory.

It also repeated a threat to attack loudspeakers if Seoul goes ahead with its plan to resume cross-border propaganda broadcasts as part of reprisals.

The border was the scene of deadly clashes in 1999 and 2002 and of a firefight in November last year. The South's military believes the Cheonan was sunk in revenge for the firefight.

Some 42,000 North Koreans work in 110 South Korean factories at Kaesong, which was developed as a symbol of reconciliation.

"We are watching whether North Korea will take action to cripple the operations of the Kaesong estate, or will close it," said unification ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-Joo.

"Drills with US"

About 10 ships including a 3,000-tonne destroyer and three patrol boats took part in the one-day drill, which included the dropping of depth charges and naval gunfire, Yonhap news agency quoted military officials as saying.

The defence ministry declined to give details of the exercise.

The drill was held off the west coast town of Taean, far south of the disputed Yellow Sea border where the Cheonan corvette was torn in two on March 26.

Officials quoted by Yonhap said South Korea's military and the 28,500 US troops in the South had raised their alert level and stepped up surveillance of the North from satellites and reconnaissance aircraft.

South Korea also is planning two major joint military drills with the U.S. by July in a display of force intended to deter future aggression by North Korea, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Seoul Wednesday in a show of support.

Russia, which also has a Security Council veto, said it would send experts to Seoul to study the findings of the investigation into the sinking.

South Korea will ask the U.N. Security Council as early as next week to take up the issue, its Yonhap news agency said.

North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly is scheduled to meet on June 7, two months after the parliament passed constitutional amendments that strengthened leader Kim Jong-il's powers. Experts say a major announcement is likely.


Agencies

Last Mod: 27 Mayıs 2010, 13:30
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