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N. Korea on combat alert as drill begins

SEOUL, March 8 (UPI) -- The South Korean-U.S. joint military exercise began Monday, with North Korea, opposing the drill, asking its troops to be ready for any aggression.

The Korean People's Army "should reliably defend the outposts of the country so as to repel at a single stroke any attempt of the aggressors to make a pre-emptive strike," the military's supreme command said in a report carried by the official KCNA news agency.

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The units of the three services of the KPA should be ready "to blow up the citadel of aggressors once the order is issued," said the report quoted by China's Xinhua news agency.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the joint exercise, described as purely defensive, is set to go on until March 18. North Korea sees it as a preparation for attack against it, even though no such clash has occurred during past exercises.

The South Korean Defense Ministry said there has been no sign of any unusual military movement in the Communist country, Yonhap said. There had also been no restriction Monday on the border traffic between the two Koreas.

On Sunday, North Korea, protesting the exercise, said it will not cooperate with international efforts for its nuclear disarmament or hold any dialogue with South Korea or the United States during the duration of the military exercise, the report said.

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In January, North Korea expressed willingness to return to the six-nation nuclear talks, which have remained stalled for more than a year since the North conducted its second nuclear test. Besides North Korea, others in the talks include China, the United States, Russia, South Korea, and Japan.

The Xinhua news agency report said many observers had been expecting the talks to resume in the near future.

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