NK-war threats

SEOUL, March 12 (Yonhap) -- Continuing weeks of threats to strike back against its enemies, North Korea said Tuesday that South Korea and the United States will be held accountable for the "catastrophic consequences" of their ongoing joint military drills.

"The U.S. and south Korean puppet forces are wholly to blame for all the ensuing catastrophic consequences from this moment," the North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement.

The threats made by the organization charged with dealing with Seoul are the latest in a series of bellicose rhetoric raised by the communist country over the two allies' joint military exercises, which the North denounces as a rehearsal for invasion.

"The U.S. and south Korean puppet warmongers finally kicked off Key Resolve joint war maneuvers, the provocative saber-rattling for invading the DPRK," the statement said. The DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

They are "the most dangerous drills for a nuclear war and most undisguised provocations unprecedented in their nature, scale and the program of their drills," the committee said. "The Key Resolve joint military exercises for aggression are a clear declaration of war against the DPRK."

The communist country also repeated its threats to wage an all-out war, noting "second and third strong practical countermeasures (will) be taken in succession from March 11 when the nuclear war maneuvers of the U.S. and the south Korean puppet forces to invade the DPRK enters a full dress rehearsal stage."

North Korea's military and "its offensive means including sophisticated nuclear strike capabilities are in place for a final offensive," the committee said, referring to its war readiness. "All strike means of the DPRK have already been put on alert and when they open fire, everything will turn into a sea in flames," it said.

The computer-simulated Key Resolve drill kicked off its 11-day run on Monday while another two-month field training exercise known as Foal Eagle started earlier in the month.

Key Resolve involves 10,000 South Korean forces and 3,500 U.S. soldiers along with high-profile combat planes and an aircraft carrier. South Korea says the drill is only for defensive purposes, but the North contends it targets the North and reflects the allies' plans to invade the country.

As part of heightened warlike rhetoric over the drills, the North declared last week it will nullify the cease-fire agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War and other nonaggression pacts with the South. On Monday, the country followed through with its threat to sever the emergency hotline with Seoul installed at the truce village of Panmunjom.

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