Situation ramps up as North Korea declares 1953 armistice invalid

In the last 60 years, diplomacy between North and South Korea has zigzagged from conciliatory to bellicose.

Now the North Korean army has declared invalid the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953.  The Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported that the Supreme Command of North Korea’s army had done so, adding, “The U.S. has reduced the armistice agreement to a dead paper.”

Part of the reason for the latest move are the joint exercises between the United States and South Korea. A bigger reason is tougher sanctions passed in the U.N. Security Council against North Korea in response to its nuclear test on February 12.

The Treasury Department announced today that it was designating North Korea’s primary exchange bank, the Foreign Trade Bank, as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction. Treasury also made the same designation, against Paek Se-Bong, the chairman of North Korea’s Second Economic Committee, which oversees production of North Korea’s ballistic missiles. The designation freezes any assets in the U.S. and prohibits transactions with Americans.

The armistice that North Korea has scrapped is the agreement that ended the war between North and South Korea. It is a truce, rather than a peace treaty. The terms of the armistice included the creation of the Demilitarized Zone, a heavily fortified 155-mile long (250 kilometers) 2.5-mile wide line separating the two countries.

North Korea has also cut off direct phone links with South Korea at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. The phone line was the emergency link for quick, two-way communication between the two sides.

The Rodong Sinmun also reported the North Korean Supreme Command saying that it can now make a “strike of justice at any target anytime, not bound to the armistice agreement.”

President Obama’s spokesman said today that the White House is concerned by war threats coming from North Korea. A military clash could risk drawing in the United States, which has about 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea as part of the security alliance between the two countries.

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