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DPRK drops peace agreements

THE Democratic People's Republic of Korea said yesterday that it was ditching a nonaggression pact and all other peace agreements with the Republic of Korea.

North Korea also said it would no longer respect a disputed sea border with South Korea, raising the prospect of an armed clash along the Yellow Sea boundary -- the scene of deadly skirmishes between the two navies in 1999 and 2002.

South Korea said it regretted North Korea's latest move and warned it wouldn't tolerate any attempt to violate the border.

A Defense Ministry official said the military had stepped up vigilance along the land and sea borders with the DPRK.

The Yonhap news agency said the navy had deployed a warship near the maritime boundary and strengthened surveillance systems.

The two Koreas technically remain at war because their three-year conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, in 1953. The peninsula remains divided by a heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone, with thousands of troops stationed on both sides of the border.

Relations warmed considerably over the past decade, with Seoul's liberal leadership adopting a "sunshine policy" of extending aid to the North as a way to facilitate reconciliation.

But South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak has not committed to accords signed by his predecessors - a stance Pyongyang says proves his hostility. North Korea cut off reconciliation talks soon after he took office last year.

Yesterday, the DPRK's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea declared all past peacekeeping accords "dead," claiming Lee was escalating tensions.

The statement specifically mentioned a nonaggression pact the two sides signed in late 1991 pledging not to invade each other and to seek peaceful unification.

The United States-led United Nations Command unilaterally drew the Yellow Sea border, also known as the Northern Limit Line or NLL, at the end of the war - but Pyongyang says it should be redrawn farther south.

"The position of our military on the NLL is firm," a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman said. "If the North violates it, we will sternly respond to that."


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