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N. Korea puts forces on combat alert as U.S., S. Korea begin drill

All Headlines 14:13 March 08, 2010

SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said it placed its 1.2 million troops in a combat-ready posture in response to a joint military drill by South Korea and the U.S. that began Monday.

The Korean People's Army (KPA) said in a statement released through official media it has ordered its troops to be ready to deter its enemies if they intrude into the country by "even 0.001mm."

The North considers the annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercise by South Korea and the U.S. as a prelude to a nuclear attack on its soil.

The KPA forces "should keep themselves fully ready to go into action in order to blow up the citadel of aggressors," the statement released through the Korean Central News Agency said.

The troops should "keep themselves highly alerted to mercilessly crush the aggressors," it said.

The March 8-18 exercise mobilizes U.S. troops abroad in addition to those stationed in South Korea. Seoul and Washington say the drill is purely defensive, and no clash has occurred during past exercises.

Despite the angry reaction, North Korea has shown no signs of unusual military movement, the South's defense ministry said, adding more than 20,000 South Korean troops will also be involved in the drill.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said the North imposed no restrictions on the inter-Korean border traffic as of Monday morning, with South Korean vehicles crossing the heavily fortified boundary to a joint factory park in the border town of Kaesong without trouble.

North Korea cut off border crossings to Kaesong in protest three separate times during the U.S.-South Korea exercise last year. South and North Korea have run the complex since 2004, one of the last remaining symbols of reconciliation efforts between them.

The joint drill takes place as North Korea continues to refrain from identifying four South Koreans that it says illegally entered the country. On Sunday, North Korea said it will not cooperate with international efforts to dismantle its nuclear arms programs or hold military dialogue with Seoul and Washington as long as the drill lasts.

In late January, North Korea raised tensions with the South by firing artillery shells into waters near their border, prompting warning shots from South Korea.

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