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North Korea cancels 1953 armistice; South Korea weighs options

| Monday, March 11, 2013, 7:03 p.m.

SEOUL — A state-run newspaper in North Korea said on Monday the communist country had carried out a threat to cancel the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, after days of increased tensions over its latest nuclear test.

A U.N. spokesman said later in the day, however, that North Korea cannot unilaterally dissolve the armistice.

North Korea followed through on another promise: It shut down a Red Cross hotline that the North and South Korea used for general communication and to discuss aid shipments and separated families' reunions.

Enraged over the South's joint military drills with the United States and U.N. sanctions imposed last week on Pyongyang for its Feb. 12 nuclear test, North Korea has piled threat on top of threat, including a vow to launch a nuclear strike on the United States.

Seoul has responded with tough talk of its own and has placed its troops on high alert. Tensions on the divided peninsula have reached their highest level since North Korea rained artillery shells on a South Korean island in 2010. The provocations are pushing more South Koreans to raise the once unthinkable: developing their own nuclear deterrent, analysts told USA Today.

South Korean lawmaker Chung Mong Joon of the governing Saenuri, or New Frontier Party, indicated that the South may have to look into a nuclear deterrent given that North Korea is acting like “a gangster.”

The South Korean newspaper Joong Ang Ilbo suggested in an editorial that the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” may not be enough. Although the South is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons treaty, which means the country cannot legally develop nuclear weapons, the newspaper said the North's threats mean new defenses must be considered.

“Nuclear weapons can be stopped only with nuclear weapons, as in the mutual assured destruction that prevented a nuclear conflict during the Cold War,” it said.

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