North Korea cuts final tie to South

Military tension on the Korean
peninsula continued to rise after North Korea threatened to attack any South
Korean ships entering its waters and Seoul held anti-submarine drills in
response to the March sinking of a navy vessel blamed on Pyongyang.

North Korean reaction was swift.
The military declared it would scrap accords with the South designed to prevent
armed clashes at their maritime border, including the cutting of a military hot
line, and warned of “prompt physical strikes” if any South Korean
ships enter what the North says are its waters in a disputed area off the west
coast of the peninsula.

A multinational team of
investigators said 20 May that a North Korean torpedo sank the 1,200-ton ship.
Seoul announced punitive measures, including slashing trade and resuming
anti-Pyongyang propaganda over radio and loudspeakers aimed at the North. North
Korea has denied attacking the ship, which sank near disputed western waters
where the Koreas have fought three bloody sea battles since 1999.

Off the west coast, 10 South Korean
warships, including a 3,500-ton destroyer, fired artillery and other guns and
dropped anti-submarine bombs during a one-day exercise to boost readiness, the
navy said.

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

South Korean media is reported that
the U.S.-South Korean combined forces command raised its surveillance level,
called Watch Condition, by a step from level 3 to level 2. Level 1 is the
highest.

The increased alert level means
U.S. spy satellites and U-2 spy planes will intensify their reconnaissance of
North Korea, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said, citing an unidentified South
Korean official.

The South Korean and U.S.
militaries would not confirm any changes to the alert level. It would be the
first change since North Korea carried out a nuclear test in May 2009, a South
Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff officer said on condition of anonymity, citing
department policy.

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