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(LEAD) N. Korea warns of 'shower of fire' amid tension over artillery clash

All Headlines 14:27 November 26, 2010

(ATTN: UPDATES; ADDS details, background, text of N. Korea's statement in English throughout; RECASTS headline, lead)
By Sam Kim

SEOUL, Nov. 26 (Yonhap) -- Threatening "a shower of dreadful fire," North Korea warned Friday it will wipe out its enemies if its sovereignty is violated, raising already high tension after the communist country exchanged deadly artillery barrages with South Korea earlier this week.

The warning by the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea is the latest and one of the strongest threats the North has issued since South Korea and the U.S. agreed to hold joint drills near the communist country in a show of force.

Two South Korean marines and two civilians were killed in the artillery exchange between the Koreas on Tuesday in one of the most violent clashes on the peninsula since the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea, officially called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), denies initiating the clash, warning it will mount additional attacks if its territorial waters are violated.

"The army and people of the DPRK are now greatly enraged at the provocation of the puppet group while getting fully ready to give a shower of dreadful fire and blow up the bulwark of the enemies" if they violate the North's sovereignty, the committee said.

"Gone are the days when verbal warnings are served only," it said in the warning released through its official Korean Central News Agency. "The group should not run amuck, clearly understanding the will and mettle of the highly alerted army and people of the DPRK to wipe out the enemies."

The U.S. and South Korea are scheduled to begin their exercises on Sunday near the western South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong, which the North devastated with dozens of shells.

The North denies the validity of the de facto border between the Koreas in the Yellow Sea because it was drawn unilaterally by a U.S. general at the end of the Korean War, which technically continues to this day because it ceased with a truce.

On Wednesday, the North's foreign ministry said in a statement that any firing by the South near the border is considered an attack because shells "are bound to drop inside the territorial waters of the (North) no matter in which direction they are fired."

It also warned Washington not to side with Seoul, arguing it would be "little short of feeding oil to the fire."

Three deadly clashes between the navies of the divided countries have erupted since 1999 near the Yellow Sea border also known as the Northern Limit Line. Seoul also blames Pyongyang for the March sinking of its warship that killed 46 sailors.

The attack by the North on Tuesday led to the resignation of South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young. South Korea has suspended all pending aid to North Korea while the North has rejected a proposal by the U.S.-led U.N. command to hold talks.


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