Related News

Home » World

US, ROK forces on high alert after DPRK pulls out of truce

REPUBLIC of Korea and US troops raised their alert yesterday to the highest level since 2006 after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea renounced its truce with the allied forces and threatened to strike any ships trying to intercept its vessels.

The move was a sign of heightened tensions on the peninsula following North Korea's underground nuclear test and its firing of a series of short-range missiles earlier this week.

In response, Seoul decided to join more than 90 nations that have agreed to stop and inspect vessels suspected of transporting banned weapons.

North Korea says South Korea's participation in the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative is a prelude to a naval blockade and raises the prospect of a naval skirmish in its western waters.

On Wednesday, it renounced the 1953 truce that halted fighting in the Korean War.

It said yesterday through its official media that it was preparing for an American-led attack. The US has repeatedly denied it is planning military action.

"The northward invasion scheme by the US and the South Korean puppet regime has exceeded the alarming level," North Korea's 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."

The two Koreas remain technically at war since a peace treaty has never replaced the truce.

South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young accused the North of "seriously distorting" the decision to join in the initiative and called its response "a groundless misconception."

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae said the South Korea-US combined forces command raised its surveillance from the third to the second-highest level on a scale of 5. He said the last time the alert level was that high was in 2006, when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test.

A South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff officer, speaking on condition of anonymity citing department policy, said the nation's military has also bolstered "personnel and equipment deployment" along its land and sea borders.

He said, however, that there has been no particular movement of North Korean troops along the heavily fortified border areas.

There are 28,500 US troops in South Korea and another 50,000 in Japan. All are within striking range of North Korea's missiles.

The US Air Force will deploy 12 advanced F-22 Raptor fighters in the coming days to a base in Okinawa, Japan. The move had been planned in advance and was not related to rumblings from Pyongyang, a US Forces Japan spokesman said.

Though the officer refused to give details, South Korea's mass-circulation JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported yesterday that Seoul has recently deployed more anti-air missiles and artillery at its military bases on islands near the disputed western sea border with the DPRK.

A South Korean destroyer also has been deployed near the sea border to prepare for any provocations, the newspaper said.

Seoul has said its military is prepared to "respond sternly" to any North Korean provocation and would be able to contain the North with the help of US troops.

The UN Command on Korea issued a statement defending the armistice and said it would continue to observe it.

"The armistice has served as the legal basis for the cease-fire in Korea for over 55 years and significantly contributes to stability in the region," it said. "The armistice remains in force and is binding on all signatories, including North Korea." The truce doesn't cover the waters off the west coast.

Diplomats, meanwhile, discussed possible measures that could be taken to punish North Korea.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned of "consequences," but it remained unclear what action the UN Security Council would take.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend