Tensions are high as joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises get underway branded by the North as a dangerous provocation.
South Korea and the United States have started the series of joint military exercises that has prompted grim warnings of war from the North.
The annual exercises will run for longer and on a bigger scale this time around.
That's triggered more strident opposition from North Korea.
Its government says its planning a satellite launch and couldn't guarantee the safety of South Korean commercial aircraft.
Neighbouring nations suspect it's a banned missile test in disguise but the Pyongyang government says any interception would have serious consequences.
SOUNDBITE; North Korean People's Army spokesman saying (Korean):
"Shooting down our satellite for peaceful purposes will mean war.
South Korea is accusing its neighbour of raising the political temperature and is urging Pyongyang to respond to a military hotline it said it would cut.
SOUNDBITE: Kim Ho-Nyeon, South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman, saying (Korean):
"We urge the North against to stop heightening tensions and speaking ill of the other side, based on the spirit of mutual respect and inter-Korean agreements."
Troops will be mobilised throughout South Korea and a U.S. aircraft carrier is also taking part in the exercises.
Seoul and Washington say the manoeuvres are intended to test South Korea's defensive readiness before war-time command is transferred to its government from the U.S.
SOUNDBITE: Andy Weedon, U.S. commanding officer of fleet activities in Chinhae, South Korea, saying (English):
"We're here to support joint and combined naval forces anywhere in the Republic of Korea. We're here to positively enhance our relationship with our ROK allies and we're here to be prepared to fight and win."
The exercises coincide with a visit to the region by the new U.S. envoy to North Korea on a mission to re-start international talks to end Pyongyang's nuclear programmes.
He's also branded threats by the reclusive communist state in the run-up as undesirable and unacceptable.
Paul Chapman, Reuters
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