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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

North Korea to hold live artillery drills near South

RIA Novosti


SEOUL, February 19 (RIA Novosti) - North Korea is planning a show of force near its sea borders with the South as calls for a return to disarmament talks intensify, the Yonhap news agency said on Friday.

Pyongyang notified U.S. ally South Korea earlier on Friday it would be conducting artillery fire drills from four spots on its west coast, in the Yellow Sea, and two on its east coast, in the East Sea, from Saturday through Monday. The areas were declared no-sail zones until the exercises end.

The statement comes after Pyongyang hinted earlier this month that it was willing to return to six-party talks on ending its nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic aid from the West, but insisted it first negotiate directly with the United States to repair "hostile relations."

The two Koreas exchanged perfunctory fire off the disputed sea border last month, resulting in increased tensions but no injuries.

The six-party talks involving the two Koreas, China, the United States, Russia and Japan came to a halt in April when North Korea walked out of negotiations in protest against the United Nations' condemnation of its missile tests.

The country is banned from conducting nuclear or ballistic tests under UN Resolution 1718, adopted after North Korea's first nuclear test on October 9, 2006.

However, Pyongyang carried out a second nuclear test on May 25 last year, followed by a series of short-range missile launches, and has threatened to build up its nuclear arsenal to counter what it calls hostile U.S. policies.

The move led to the UN imposing new sanctions on North Korea banning the import and export of nuclear material and all weapons except small arms.

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