North Korea Cuts Off Hotline Connecting to South Korea; Enflaming Hostilities

Monday, 11 Mar 2013 08:56 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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North Korea has followed through on its threat to cut off a border hotline with South Korea, in retaliation for the South's military drills with the United States, and U.N. sanctions imposed after the North's third nuclear test last month.

North Korea also announced on Monday it was scrapping the 1953 armistice ending the Korean War and voiding any peace agreements with the South. As part of its retaliation, the North also cut off the Red Cross hotline that connects Pyongyang and Seoul.

The two sides reportedly spoke every day in the midst of escalating tensions on the Korea peninsula, but "we called at 9 a.m. and there was no response," a South Korean government official told reporters Monday.

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The hotline was installed in 1971, and the North has severed it five times since then, most recently in 2010.

North Korea is acting out against the large-scale military drills being conducted by South Korea and the U.S. The "Key Resolve" annual drills rehearse scenarios of a possible conflict on the Korean peninsula through computer-simulated exercises, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok told reporters Monday in Seoul. The drills will incorporate more than 10,000 South Korean and 3,500 U.S. military personnel, and are expected to last until the end of April.

"This year is particularly important, because it is the first time the [South Korean] Joint Chiefs of Staff have planned and executed this combined exercise," U.S. General James Thurman, head of the Combined Forces Command, told the Telegraph.

The North has threatened preemptive nuclear attacks on both the U.S. and South Korea on multiple occasions.

North Korea is also retaliating against the U.N. sanctions it incurred after its third nuclear test on Feb. 12.

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"North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace," President Barack Obama said in a statement at the time of the test. "The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and steadfast in our defense commitments to allies in the region."

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Bolton: North Korean Video Illustrates a 'Growing Threat'

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