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10 Mar, 2009 05:59

North Korea puts troops on alert

North Korea's military is on full combat alert, as the US and South Korea hold joint war games. Pyongyang also says any attempts to intercept the launch of its communications satellite would be considered an act of war.

North Korea says they are merely launching a satellite, while the US and South Korea claim this ‘launch’ may be a cover for a ballistic missile test. The US and Japan say they could shoot it down. Pyongyang has threatened war if they do.

While many accuse North Korea of belligerent rhetoric, some Russian analysts believe it’s not Pyongyang that’s going over the top.

“We have no proof that it’s a ballistic missile. North Korea clearly states that it’s a satellite and if indeed it’s shot down, it would be a very unpleasant international incident,” says Konstantin Asmolov from the Center for Korean Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.

The North has also put its military on alert as South Korea kicked off joint war games with the US. In protest, Pyongyang cut off its hotline with the South.

The US routinely holds exercises with South Korea. Pyongyang sees them as a dry run for an invasion. Despite assurances from Seoul and Washington that the drills are defensive, some think North Korea has reason to get jumpy.

«26,000 US troops alone are taking part and 50,000 from South Korea. It’s bigger than last year. So it’s understandable that the North sees it as a provocation,» says Evgeny Kim from the Center for Korean Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Since the 1953 Korean War ceasefire relations between Pyongyang and Seoul as well as the US and Japan have remained strained. In 2003, President George Bush dubbed North Korea part of the ‘Axis of Evil’. Last year, however, Washington dropped it from the list of states sponsoring terrorism. Now some experts say Pyongyang’s tough words are a public relations stunt to grab Barack Obama’s attention as his administration makes its North Korea policy.

“They might have also taken a lesson from Obama’s initiative to consider negotiations with Taliban. Because in Afghanistan it shows that, when you’re playing hardball with the US in foreign policy, it pays,” says RT’s military analyst Eugene Khrushchev.