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Diplomacy

South Korea vows retaliation against North if provoked

South Korea's president has said any "provocation" from the North will unleash an immediate retaliation from Seoul. The tough words came in response to North Korea's recent threat of launching a war.

During a meeting with top officials in Seoul on Monday, South Korea's newly elected president reversed her country's initial response to the threat of war from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

If there is any provocation against South Korea and its people, there should be a strong response in initial combat without any political considerations," President Park Geun-hye told the defense minister and officials.

Korean tensions mount

On Saturday, Kim Jong Un announced that the neighboring countries had entered "a state of war," declaring that war time protocol would now dictate inter-Korean relations. North Korea would launch a "nuclear war" if provoked by the US or South Korea, he said.

Seoul initially brushed off the rhetoric as "not new," citing the fact that the border remained open to allow South Korean workers to travel to a cooperative industrial zone that employs workers from both countries.

The North Korean factory, which produces hard currency, said it would close if Seoul continued "defaming" it, but, in the end, did not deliver on the threat.

The neighboring countries agreed to a ceasefire in 1953, bringing fighting in the three-year Korean War to an end. However, because they failed to agree to a peace treaty, they have technically remained at war for nearly 60 years.

US sends fighter jets to South Korea

Two F-22 Raptor fighters arrived at the Osan Air Base, the main US Air Force base in the South, on Sunday to participate in the annual "Foal Eagle" exercise, according to the US military. They were reportedly deployed from a US base in Okinawa, Japan.

Announcing the move the US military command in the South urged North Korea to refrain from taking military action.

"[North Korea] will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia," the statement said.

The exercise, due to last until April 30, has already seen the United States send two nuclear-capable B-2 Spirit bombers on practice runs over South Korea in a display of US support for Seoul.

North Korea responded on Saturday by announcing that it had entered a "state of war" with the South. A day earlier the North's leader Kim Jong Un signed an order putting Pyongyang's missile units on standby to strike the US mainland and US bases in the Pacific.

kms,ccp/pfd (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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