World News

N. Korea Puts Troops on Alert over Planned US-Led Military Drill

North Korea has placed its military on alert and warned of "disastrous consequences" in response to a planned U.S.-led military drill near the Korean peninsula.

A North Korean military spokesman told state media all troops have been ordered to "keep themselves ready to promptly launch operations at any time."

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok confirmed North Korea's military has been placed on high alert.



"Our armed forces are closely monitoring the North Korean military's movements and are fully prepared to take a decisive action against the North's possible provocations."



The North Korean threat comes as U.S. warships deployed to the South Korean port of Busan for what officials describe as a routine search and rescue drill with the South Korean and Japanese navies.

North Korea appears particularly upset about the participation of the USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) published a report claiming the ship was carrying "at least 100 nuclear bombs aboard." It said the closer U.S. forces get to North Korea, "the more unpredictable disasters their actions will cause."

Pyongyang often threatens military action in response to the U.S.-South Korean drills, but rarely follows through.



The three-day trilateral exercise off Busan was due to start on Tuesday but was postponed due to the passage of a typhoon through the region. No new date was announced.

A South Korean officer quoted by Yonhap said the USS George Washington is on standby after moving from Busan to a safer area to ride out the typhoon.

Leonid Petrov, a Korea analyst at the Australian National University, tells VOA he views the North Korean threats as part of a "seasonal type" of escalation.



"Every time the United States' and the Republic of Korea's naval or aerial exercises take place on the southern side of the peninsula, the North Koreans take it very seriously."



Petrov says North Korea views the drills as preparation to invade, a sentiment he says reflects the ongoing tension surrounding the Korean War.



"The Korean War is technically still going on, and every time the military on one side or the other is beefing up its forward deployed military, the other side reacts and sometimes overreacts."



The North's war-like rhetoric reached a peak not seen in years following international condemnation of its nuclear weapon test in February. At its worst point, North Korea was issuing near-daily threats of nuclear war against the U.S. and its regional allies.

Relations had recently shown signs of improvement, with the two Koreas reaching tentative agreements on resuming a series of cross-border projects, including a symbolic joint factory that had served as a bellwether of Korean ties.

But the KCNA article warned that "the situation on the Korean peninsula is getting strained again." It said this is "entirely attributable" to what it called the "persistent anti-DPRK military confrontation of the U.S. and Japanese aggressors and South Korean puppet forces."

South Korean lawmakers say North Korea also appears to have taken a step toward restarting its nuclear weapons program. The lawmakers said South Korea's National Intelligence Service told them in a closed briefing that the North recently restarted its plutonium reactor at Yongbyon.

North Korea threatened to restart the aging reactor in April but has not confirmed such a move. The reactor could be used to produce nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang had shut down the reactor as part of six-party negotiations on dismantling its nuclear weapons program in return for aid. Those talks have been stalled for years.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs