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(LEAD) N. Korea threatens to fire at S. Korean propaganda equipment

All Headlines 15:06 May 24, 2010

(ATTN: ADDS details, background; RECASTS lead, headline)
By Sam Kim

SEOUL, May 24 (Yonhap) -- North Korea threatened Monday to fire at South Korean loudspeakers if Seoul resumes its propaganda activities against Pyongyang along their heavily armed border, raising the already high tension after Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a warship.

The threat came after South Korea announced it would install megaphones along the Demiltarized Zone and resume its anti-North Korea broadcasting that had stopped in a 2004 agreement with Pyongyang. North Korea also withdrew its megaphones that year.

If an anti-Pyongyang slogan on a South Korean building facing the North is not removed and loudspeakers are set up, "there will start the firing of direct sighting shots to destroy them," an unnamed commander of North Korea's central forces said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

"If the group of traitors challenges the just reaction of (North Korea), this will be followed by stronger physical strike to eliminate the root cause of the provocations," he said, arguing his troops are enraged by the sight of South Korean equipment.

North Korea denies it sank the 1,200-ton corvette Cheonan and killed 46 of its crew members on March 26. However, citing a multinational probe, South Korea announced last week that a North Korean submarine torpedoed its ship near the Yellow Sea border.

In a joint news conference in Seoul, the defense, foreign and unification ministers announced a batch of measures their government will take to punish the North for the attack.

Earlier in the day, President Lee Myung-bak said in a nationally televised address that his country will not hesitate to exercise its right to self-defense if North Korea further provokes.

He also said Seoul will suspend all trade and exchange programs with the North except for a joint industrial park in a North Korean border town, demanding Pyongyang apologize for the sinking.

In an attempt to boost its surveillance and deterrence capabilities, South is also planning massive joint anti-submarine drills with the U.S. in the Yellow Sea.

Three skirmishes have erupted near the sea border since 1999, including one in November last year. South and North Korea remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce. Despite a decade of reconciliation, their relations started to deteriorate in early 2008 when President Lee took office and tied large-scale aid to progress in North Korea's denuclearization.


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