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N. Korea threatens 'sacred war' against S. Korea, U.S.
SEOUL, Feb. 25 (Yonhap) -- North Korea vowed Saturday to launch a "sacred war" against South Korea and the United States, accusing the allies of declaring war through their joint military drills.

   South Korea and the U.S. plan to jointly stage major military maneuvers, called the Key Resolve, from Feb. 27 to March 9, with about 200,000 South Korean and 2,100 U.S. troops participating.

   Separately, the allies plan to hold the Foal Eagle joint military exercise from March 1 to April 30.

   South Korea and the U.S. regularly hold military exercises to bolster their readiness against a possible North Korean invasion. The communist North has a track record of military provocations against South Korea.

   Still, North Korea routinely denounces military drills in the South as rehearsals for a northward invasion.

   "Key Resolve and Foal Eagle are unpardonable war hysteria kicked up by the hooligans to desecrate our mourning period and an unpardonable infringement upon our sovereignty and dignity," a spokesman for the North's powerful National Defense Commission said in an English-language statement carried by the official (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   The communist nation has been observing a period of mourning over the Dec. 17 death of its longtime leader Kim Jong-il.

   "Now that a war has been declared against us, the army and people are firmly determined to counter it with a sacred war of our own style and protect the security of the nation and the peace of the country," the spokesman said.

   "The sacred war will make a clean sweep of the Lee group and those warmongers from this land by the war mode of our own style, our strong striking means unknown to the world."

   The statement was referring to South Korea's Lee Myung-bak administration, under which inter-Korean ties have mostly been tense.

   Last Sunday, North Korea threatened to make "merciless retaliatory strikes" if South Korea violated its waters during live-fire drills near their western maritime border. The drills took place on Monday, but no clash occurred.