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DPRK: peninsula on the brink of war

THE Democratic People's Republic of Korea warned yesterday that the downward spiral of relations with the Republic of Korea has pushed the peninsula to the brink of war, two days after it said it was scrapping all pacts with the South.

Analysts say the rhetorical volleys are aimed at changing the hard-line policies of South Korea's president and are meant to grab the attention of new United States President Barack Obama.

"The policy of confrontation with the DPRK pursued by the (ROK) group is ... the very source of military conflicts and war between the North and the South," the North's KCNA news agency reported a state newspaper as saying.

"In Korea in the state of armistice, confrontation means escalated tension and it may lead to an uncontrollable and unavoidable military conflict and a war," it said.

The two sides, technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended with a cease-fire and not a peace treaty, have more than 1 million troops near their border. There are about 28,000 US troops in South Korea.

The North works slowly and it may still be trying to figure out its approach with the new Obama team, analysts said, making it easier for Pyongyang to direct its anger at Washington's allies, including Seoul.

The North in recent months has threatened to destroy the conservative government of President Lee Myung-bak, which ended a decade of free-flowing aid to Pyongyang after taking office a year ago.

Lee's government mostly ignores Pyongyang's taunts.

"North Korea's escalating threats do not indicate major hostilities are imminent," said Bruce Klingner, an expert on Korean affairs at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

"However, they could easily presage another round of tactical naval confrontations with South Korea in the Yellow Sea."

The two Koreas fought deadly naval skirmishes in disputed Yellow Sea waters in 1999 and 2002.


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