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S. Korea leader vows 'strong' retaliation to North
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) April 1, 2013

Timeline of escalating threats on Korean peninsula
Seoul (AFP) March 30, 2013 - North Korea's announcement Saturday that it had entered a "state of war" with South Korea was the latest in a long line of escalating threats and postures adopted by all sides in the current crisis on the Korean peninsula.

Below is a timeline of key threats and actions dating from the North's long-range rocket launch in December 2012.


Dec 12: North Korea successfully launches three-stage rocket and places satellite in orbit. Seoul, Washington and UN condemn launch as a covert ballistic missile test.


Jan 22: UN Security Council passes a resolution condemning North Korea's rocket launch and tightens existing sanctions.

Jan 24: North Korea's National Defense Commission says it will proceed with a "high-level nuclear test."

Jan 25: North Korea threatens "physical counter-measures" against rival South Korea.

Feb 12: North Korea conducts a third nuclear test.

Feb 26: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un oversees a live-fire artillery drill aimed at simulating an "actual war".

March 1: South Korea and US launch annual "Foal Eagle" joint military exercise.

March 5: North Korea says it will scrap armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

March 7: North Korea threatens a "pre-emptive" nuclear strike against the United States and South Korea.

Also March 7: The United Nations adopts tougher sanctions on Pyongyang over its nuclear test.

March 8: North Korea announces the voiding of non-aggression pacts with South Korea and severs a government hotline with Seoul. Kim Jong-Un tours frontline island units and vows "all-out war".

March 11: South Korea and US launch annual "Key Resolve" joint military exercise.

March 12: Kim Jong-Un threatens to "wipe out" South Korean island of Baengnyeong.

March 15: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announces plans to bolster US mainland defenses against a possible North Korean missile strike.

March 18: US Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter promises to provide South Korea with every military resource under the US nuclear umbrella.

March 19: US publicises flights by nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over South Korea as part of "Foal Eagle" exercise.

March 21: North Korean army threatens strikes against US military bases in Japan and Guam in response to B-52 flights.

March 22: South Korea and US sign new pact providing for a joint military response even to low-level provocation by North Korea.

March 26: South Korean President Park Geun-Hye warns North Korea its only "path to survival" lies in abandoning nuclear and missile programmes.

Also March 26 : North Korea's military puts its "strategic" rocket units on a war footing, with fresh threat to strike targets on the US mainland, Hawaii and Guam and South Korea.

March 27: North Korea cuts last remaining military hotline with South Korea.

March 28: The United States deploys two nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers on "deterrence" missions over South Korea. Hagel says US ready for "any eventuality."

March 29: Kim Jong-Un, vowing to "settle accounts," orders missile units to prepare to strike US mainland and military bases in the Pacific.

March 30: North Korea declares it had entered into a "state of war" with South Korea.

South Korea's new president on Monday promised a strong military response to any North Korean provocation after Pyongyang announced that the two countries were now in a state of war.

President Park Geun-Hye's warning came as North Korea's rubber-stamp parliament was set to hold its annual session and a day after ruling party leaders vowed to enshrine Pyongyang's right to nuclear weapons in law.

In a meeting with senior military officials and Defence Minister Kim Kwan-Jin, Park said she took the near-daily stream of bellicose threats emanating from the North over the past month "very seriously."

"I believe that we should make a strong and immediate retaliation without any other political considerations if (the North) stages any provocation against our people," she said.

Park, a conservative who had advocated cautious engagement with the North during her campaign, has been compelled to take a more hardline posture after assuming office in February.

The Korean peninsula has been caught in a cycle of escalating tensions since North Korea's long-range rocket launch in December which its critics condemned as a ballistic missile test.

United Nations sanctions were followed by a nuclear test in February, after which came more sanctions and more apocalyptic threats from Pyongyang as South Korea and the United States conducted joint military drills.

Those threats have run the gamut from limited artillery bombardments to pre-emptive nuclear strikes, and have been met with warnings from Seoul and Washington of severe repercussions.

The US military said Monday it had deployed F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to South Korea as part of the ongoing "Foal Eagle" military exercise.

The jets were reportedly flown out of the US air base in Okinawa, Japan.

North Korea has already threatened to strike the US mainland and US bases in the Pacific in response to the participation of nuclear-capable US B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers in this year's exercise.

The annual gathering of the North's Supreme People's Assembly usually scores low on important policy announcements -- its role largely limited to unanimously pushing through pre-decided budgets and personnel changes.

But with North Korea having declared itself in a "state of war" with the South, Monday's session will be closely watched for any sign of the current crisis impacting on the fortunes of members of the ruling elite.

"The North has played most of its political cards, so I don't see any fresh, tangible threats to come out after the meeting," said Cho Han-Bum, an analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

"It will probably issue some kind of symbolic statement, like urging all North Koreans to stand ready for a possible war," Cho said.

The parliament session was preceded by a gathering Sunday of the central committee of the ruling Workers' Party, chaired by North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-Un.

The meeting declared that the North's possession of nuclear weapons "should be fixed by law", and that its nuclear arsenal should be beefed up "qualitatively and quantitatively".

On Saturday, North Korea announced it had entered a "state of war" with South Korea and warned that that any provocation would swiftly escalate into an all-out nuclear conflict.

Both South Korea and the United States chose to downplay the announcement as just another in a long line of rhetorical provocations.

One threat that grabbed more attention related to the possible closure of a joint-Korean industrial complex which lies inside North Korea.

The Kaesong estate -- established in 2004 as a symbol of cross-border cooperation -- is a crucial source of hard-currency revenue for North Korea which has never allowed past crises on the peninsula to impact its operations.

On Saturday, the North's state body in charge of the complex said it would shut Kaesong down completely if South Korea continues to affront Pyongyang's "dignity".

The border crossing to Kaesong, which lies 10 kilometres (six miles) on the North side, was functioning normally on Monday.

The operating stability of the complex is seen as a true bellwether of inter-Korean relations, and its closure would mark a significant escalation of tensions beyond all the military rhetoric.

Military balance on the Korean peninsula
Seoul (AFP) March 31, 2013 - Following North Korea's declaration that it is in a "state of war" with South Korea, here is a fact box on the relative conventional strengths of the three militaries present on the Korean peninsula.

The figures are taken from the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies' annual global "Military Balance" report, 2011.

North Korea's annual defence spending as of 2008 was estimated at $8.2 billion, or 22-24 percent of GDP, while South Korea's as of 2012 was $30.8 billion, or 2.7 percent of GDP.

South Korea is protected by the US "nuclear" umbrella, while North Korea, which conducted its third nuclear test in February, claims a potent nuclear weapons capability.

The range of North Korean missiles, and its ability to manufacture and deliver working nuclear warheads, are a matter of dispute.

                               North Korea          South Korea (+ US forces)

   Active troops                  1.2 million          655,000 (+ 28,000)
   Reserves/Paramilitaries        5-7.7 million        3.0 million
   Tanks                          4,100                2,400 (+ 50)
   Armoured personnel carriers    2,500                2,600 (+ 110)
   Field artillery pieces         8,500                5,200 (+ 16)
   Multiple rocket launchers      5,100                200 (+ 40)
   Mortars                        7,500                6,000
   Air Defence Guns               11,000               300

   Combat aircraft                820 (620 serviceable) 460 (+ 90)
   Helicopters                    300                   680 (+ 120)

   Principle combat vessels       3                     19 
   Patrol and coastal vessels     383                   111
   Submarines                     70                    23
   Hovercraft                     135                   5
   Landing ships and craft        130                   41

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