N.Korea Threatens Over Military Drill

      February 20, 2012 11:41

      North Korea on Sunday threatened a "merciless counter-strike" a day before a South Korean firing drill in the West Sea and warned residents on the five northwesternmost islands to "evacuate to safety in advance."

      In an "open notice," the North Korean western front command claimed nearby waters are under North Korean sovereignty. The North will retaliate the moment South Korea starts "a reckless military provocation in these waters and even a single column of water is found to have risen there," it added.

      It warned all civilians living or working on the five islands or nearby to evacuate before 9 o'clock Monday, when the firing drill near the sea border starts.

      Such rhetoric is customary whenever South Korea conducts military drills, but Pyongyang on Aug. 3, 2010 threatened a "powerful physical retaliation" ahead of a South Korean firing drill near the five islands and then lobbed about 130 rounds of artillery shells into waters near the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime sea border, in the West Sea six days later. Some of the shells fell into the South Korean waters.

      "The firing drill on Monday is one of several annual routine exercises," an officer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff here said. "There are no signs of a provocation from the North for now, but we're heightening alertness just in case."

      Meanwhile, the North has ratcheted up denunciations of President Lee Myung-bak again since the death of former leader Kim Jong-il. It denounced Lee three times in November and six times in December but about 250 times in January, and the frequency is rising.

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