March 8th, 2009 in Breaking News

North Korea Puts Army on Combat Alert Before Drills

Bloomberg.com: Asia.

March 9 (Bloomberg) — North Korea ordered its armed forces to be combat ready ahead of U.S.-South Korea military exercises that began today and threatened retaliation if its territory is violated, state-run media reported.

The Korean People’s Army will “deal merciless retaliatory blows at them, should they intrude into the sky and land and seas” of the communist state, the Korea Central News Agency said in a statement early today, citing the army’s Supreme Command.

In a separate statement, North Korea said it will cut off military communications with South Korea from today. The military drills started as scheduled, Dave Palmer, a spokesman for United States Forces Korea, said by telephone, adding they are held “every year and are purely defensive.”

Tensions have risen on the Korean Peninsula in recent weeks and U.S. and South Korean officials say that North Korea is preparing to test a ballistic missile theoretically capable of reaching Alaska.

North Korea, which tested a nuclear device in 2006, denied the reports, saying on Feb. 24 it is preparing to launch a communications satellite as part of a “peaceful” space project.

The General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said it will retaliate with prompt counterstrikes if the satellite is shot down, KCNA reported today.