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March 8, 2013 at 8:38 AM
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Seoul warns against N. Korea provocation

SEOUL, March 8 (UPI) -- If North Korea carries out its threatened nuclear attack on South Korea, it would be obliterated, a South Korean official said.

Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for South Korea's Defense Ministry, also said the U.S.-South Korean military drills would shift focus if there were any provocation from Pyongyang, the BBC reported Friday.

North Korea would become "extinct from the Earth by the will of mankind" if it launches a nuclear attack on South Korea as it threatened to do Thursday, Kim said.

The spokesman also warned any provocation from North Korea would "immediately" change the annual U.S.-South Korean military drills that start Monday "into a punishment mode to respond to it as planned."

North Korea said it's ending all non-aggression agreements with South Korea, severing a hotline to Seoul and closing its side of a shared border station, effective Monday.

North Korea earlier said it said it would carry out pre-emptive nuclear strikes on South Korea and the United States, and was nullifying the cease-fire that ended the Korean war, also effective Monday.

The U.N. Security Council Thursday unanimously approved a fresh round of sanctions against North Korea for its recent third underground nuclear test. A U.N. resolution targets North Korean diplomats, cash transfers and access to luxury goods, and it imposes asset freezes and travel bans on three individuals and two entities tied to the country's military.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye called the situation "very grave," saying she would "deal strongly" with provocation from North Korea, the BBC said.

Chavez to be embalmed after state funeral

CARACAS, Venezuela, March 8 (UPI) -- Hugo Chavez's body will be embalmed so "our people can have him forever," acting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said before Chavez's state funeral Friday.

Chavez's body won't be buried, Maduro said on national television, but will continue lying in state at Caracas' military academy, Chavez's alma mater, for an additional week so "millions" of mourners can see him, Maduro said.

Critics said the move was to stifle gathering opposition forces.

After the additional seven days, Maduro said, the body of Chavez, who died Tuesday after battling cancer for nearly two years, will be taken to the Museum of the Revolution in Caracas.

The museum is in the building that served as Chavez's 1992 headquarters when he led an unsuccessful coup against President Carlos Andres Perez.

"It has been decided to prepare the body of the president commander, embalming to be open forever ... as is Ho Chi Minh, as is [Vladimir] Lenin and Mao Zedong," Maduro said in a televised address, referring to Vietnamese, Russian and Chinese communist revolutionary leaders.

"The body of our commander in chief will remain embalmed at the Museum of the Revolution in a special way, so it can stay in a glass casket and our people can have him forever," he said.

McCain, Graham assail Paul on drones

WASHINGTON, March 8 (UPI) -- Two top Republican national security hawks defended President Barack Obama's drone use and lit into Sen. Rand Paul for his filibuster on the U.S. drone program.

"I don't think what happened yesterday was helpful to the American people," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on the Senate floor Thursday.

The nation "needs a discussion" of drone policy, but concerns raised by Paul, a Kentucky Republican, are "totally unfounded," McCain said, referring to Paul's comments Wednesday night that the U.S. government could potentially use military force to kill American citizens who object to government policies.

"We've done, I think, a disservice to a lot of Americans by making them think that somehow they're in danger from their government," McCain said.

"They're not. But we are in danger from a dedicated, longstanding, easily replaceable-leadership enemy that is hell-bent on our destruction."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, "To my party, I'm a bit disappointed that you no longer apparently think we're at war."

McCain also assailed Paul for citing actress and former activist Jane Fonda, who criticized the U.S. military in July 1972 while in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War -- an incident that spawned the nickname "Hanoi Jane."

Obama to challenge Israelis on peace

WASHINGTON, March 8 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama says he intended to challenge Israelis during his upcoming visit to make greater personal sacrifices for peace with Palestinians.

"What are you willing to do for peace? What hard steps are you willing to take?" Obama told leaders of diverse Jewish organizations he planned to ask Israelis.

He met with about 25 U.S. Jewish leaders at the White House for an hour Thursday in a meeting that was not on his public schedule.

Several participants spoke with a few news organizations afterward, largely keeping their comments general, as the White House requested.

Obama told the group he did not plan to lay out a "grand" U.S. peace plan during the visit, attendees told the Los Angeles Times and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Indeed, Obama said he thought prospects for peace were "bleak" right now, two attendees told JTA.

But "that doesn't mean six or nine or 12 months from now we won't be in the midst of a policy initiative," he said.

Obama said he does plan to counsel Israeli and Palestinian leaders against making "unilateral" moves, attendees told JTA.

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