US, S. Korea put militaries on alert over N. Korea
SEOUL, South Korea — The U.S. and South Korea put their military forces on high alert Thursday after North Korea renounced the truce keeping the peace between the two Koreas since 1953.
The North also accused the U.S. of preparing to attack the isolated communist country in the wake of its second nuclear bomb test, and warned it would retaliate to any hostility with "merciless" and dangerous ferocity.
Seoul moved a 3,500-ton destroyer into waters near the Koreas' disputed western maritime border while smaller, high-speed vessels were keeping guard at the front line, South Korean news reports said. The defense ministry said the U.S. and South Korean militaries would increase surveillance activities.
Pyongyang, meanwhile, positioned artillery guns along the west coast on its side of the border, the Yonhap news agency said. The Joint Chiefs of Staffs in Seoul refused to confirm the reports.
The show of force along the heavily fortified border dividing the two Koreas comes three days after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test and fired a series of short-range missiles.
The test drew immediate condemnation from world leaders and the U.N. Security Council, where ambassadors were discussing a new resolution to punish Pyongyang. President Barack Obama called it a "blatant violation"of international law.
In response, South Korea said it would join more than 90 nations that have agreed to stop and inspect vessels suspected of transporting weapons of mass destruction.
North Korea called South Korea's participation in the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative a prelude to a naval blockade and a violation of the truce signed to end the three-year wore that broke out in Korea in 1950.
On Wednesday Pyongyang renounced the 1953 armistice and the following day warned U.S. forces against advancing into its territory.
"The northward invasion scheme by the U.S. and the South Korean puppet regime has exceeded the alarming level," the North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. "A minor accidental skirmish can lead to a nuclear war." (con't)