In what could escalate the already situation, North Korea on Monday scrapped an armistice that ended Korean War of 1950-53 even as the US and South Korea carried out annual military drill.
The North Korean Army has declared as invalid the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953, an article in Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, said Monday as per a CNN report.
An agitated North also snapped hotline with South Korea as it had threatened last week, South Korea’s unification ministry said.
The ministry said North Korea seems to have cut the emergency link set up to deal with any contingency along the demilitarized zone of Panmunjom, which separates the two Koreas, Yonhap News Agency reported.
Tensions have been running high since North Korea conducted its third nuclear test Feb 12, and the UN agreed to impose tougher sanctions on the country for its renewed provocations.
Pyongyang has launched a bombast-filled propaganda campaign against the drills, which involve 10,000 South Korean and about 3,000 American troops, and last week’s UN vote to impose new sanctions over the North’s nuclear test. Analysts believe that much of that campaign is meant to shore up loyalty among citizens and the military for North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un.
Pyongyang isn’t believed to be able to build a warhead small enough to mount on a long-range missile, and the North’s military has repeatedly vowed in the past to scrap the 1953 armistice. North Korea wants a formal peace treaty, security guarantees and other concessions, as well as the removal of 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.
Still, South Korean and US officials have been closely monitoring Pyongyang’s actions and parsing the torrent of recent rhetoric from the North, which has been more warlike than usual.
North Korea regularly claims South Korea-US drills are a preparation for invasion, but Pyongyang has signaled more worry about the drills that began Monday. The drills follow UN sanctions that the North says are the result of US hostility aimed at toppling its political system.
North Korea has also warned South Korea of a nuclear war on the divided peninsula and said it was cancelling nonaggression pacts.
Despite the threats, South Korea and the US began the 11-day war games as scheduled Monday. The allies have repeatedly said the drills and other joint exercises are defensive in nature and they have no intention of attacking the North.
A US military statement said the exercise is not related to current events on the Korean Peninsula.
The drills are part of larger war games that began March 1 and are set to go on for two months.
US troops in South Korea are meant to prevent North Korean aggression, U.S. and South Korean officials say, and are a legacy of the Korean War, which ended with the peace treaty that leaves the Korean Peninsula still technically in a state of war.