NKorea Threatens to Retaliate Against SKorea Over Naval Drills

North Korea's military threatened Tuesday to retaliate against South Korea over its planned naval drills this week near their disputed sea border.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said that the military would crush the naval drills with a powerful physical blow and warned all civilian ships to stay away from areas near the sea border.

South Korea plans to hold five-day naval drills in the Yellow sea, including near the border, beginning Thursday in response to the March sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on North Korea.

North Korea vehemently denies involvement in the sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan, and has demanded that its own investigators be allowed to visit to South Korea to examine the results. Seoul has rejected the North's repeated requests.

The North's military denounced South Korea's planned drills as political provocations aimed at keeping the current sea border — the scene of deadly skirmishes between the two sides in 1999, 2002 and last year.

South Korea's Defense Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.

The western maritime boundary has long been considered a flashpoint between the two Koreas because the North does not recognize a line the United Nations unilaterally drew at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Last month, South Korea and the United States held naval drills in the East Sea off the coast of the Korean peninsula to warn the North that further provocations will not be tolerated.

The North had threatened to respond to the joint military exercises with powerful nuclear deterrence, though there was no sign of unusual North Korean military activity during the drills.

Pyongyang routinely accuses the U.S. and South Korea of staging the military drills as a rehearsal for an attack on North Korea. Washington and Seoul say the exercises are purely defensive and that they have no intention of invading the North.(AP)