NKorea’s threat rings in high alert

SEOUL: South Korean and US troops raised their alert on Thursday to the highest level since 2006 after North Korea renounced its truce with the allied forces and threatened to strike any ships trying to intercept its vessels.

The move was a sign of heightened tensions on the peninsula following the North’s underground nuclear test and its firing of a series of short-range missiles earlier this week.

In response, Seoul decided to join more than 90 nations that have agreed to stop and inspect vessels suspected of transporting banned weapons. North Korea says South Korea’s participation in the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative is a prelude to a naval blockade and raises the prospect of a naval skirmish in its western waters.

Yesterday, it renounced the 1953 truce that halted fighting in the Korean War. It said today through its official media that it was preparing for an American-led attack.

“The northward invasion scheme by the US and the South Korean puppet regime has exceeded the alarming level,” the North’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. “A minor accidental skirmish can lead to a nuclear war.”

The two Koreas remain technically at war since a peace treaty has never replaced the truce.

South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young accused the North of “seriously distorting” the decision to join in the initiative and called its response “a groundless misconception.” A South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman said the South Korea-US combined forces command raised its surveillance from the third to the second-highest level on a scale of 5.