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(LEAD) S. Korean military declares emergency alert after Kim Jong-il's death

All Headlines 12:58 December 19, 2011

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details)

SEOUL, Dec. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) on Monday placed all military units on emergency alert following the news of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's death.

The JCS said it called an emergency meeting of officials handling crisis management and operations just after noon Monday, after the North Korean media reported Kim's death.

The JCS said it has increased its monitoring activities along the border along with the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command. No unusual activity had been observed from the North, officials said.

Officials said they may raise the "Defcon," a five-stage combat alert level, from its current level of four to three, and may also increase the Watchcon, an anti-North Korea surveillance alert, from three to two. Watchcon two signifies a state of emergency with indications of a vital threat from North Korea.

The South last raised its Watchcon to two immediately after the North shelled Yeonpyeong Island, just south of the Yellow Sea border on Nov. 23, killing two marines and two civilians.

"We're keeping close tabs on the demilitarized zone (DMZ), Joint Security Area (JSA) and Northern Limit Line (NLL) for possibilities of North Korean provocations," one JCS official said, referring to volatile border areas on land and in sea.

According to the JCS, the Master Control and Report Center (MCRC) at Osan Air Base, south of Seoul, which handles aerial monitoring and analysis, plans to ask for reinforcement by both South Korean and U.S. forces.

Army Gen. Jung Seung-jo, chairman of the JCS, is on his way back to Seoul from a field trip to frontline units, officials said.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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