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South Korea Lifts Military Alert - 2001-12-21

South Korea has lifted a military alert imposed after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. The move could help revive stalled reconciliation efforts with North Korea.

Seoul is returning to what it calls its "normal basic combat posture," ending a heightened security status, in place since September 11.

A South Korean defense ministry official told reporters that the alert was lifted because U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan is winding down. He reiterated that the alert had not been connected to relations with North Korea.

The communist government in Pyongyang objected to Seoul's heightened security measures. To express its displeasure, North Korea canceled a reunion of separated family members as well as ministerial talks.

On Thursday, Seoul said it is ready to resume dialogue with North Korea following Pyongyang's statement earlier in the week that it wanted the South to take "bold action" to resume the discussions.

Seoul's change in its security posture comes as a squadron of U.S. fighter jets, sent to South Korea to bolster regional security after the September 11 attacks, prepares to return to Alaska next week.

The F-15 fighter jets are no longer needed in South Korea because the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk is sailing back to its home port in Japan. The Kitty Hawk had been supporting the war on terrorism in Afghanistan.

Thirty-seven-thousand U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, helping to maintain peace on the peninsula.

North and South Korea remain technically at war since their three-year conflict ended in 1953 without a peace treaty.