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Associated Press, Published March 10 2013

South Korean, US troops launch military drills that North Korea has threatened war over

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea and the United States began annual military drills Sunday despite North Korean threats to respond by voiding the armistice that ended the Korean War and launching a nuclear attack on the U.S.

After the start of the drills, South Korean officials said their northern counterparts didn't answer two calls on a hotline between the sides, apparently following through on an earlier vow to cut the communication channel because of the drills.

Pyongyang has launched a bombast-filled propaganda campaign against the drills, which involve 10,000 South Korean and about 3,000 American troops, and last week's U.N. vote to impose new sanctions over the North's Feb. 12 nuclear test. Analysts believe that much of that campaign is meant to shore up loyalty among citizens and the military for North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong Un.

Pyongyang isn't believed to be able to build a warhead small enough to mount on a long-range missile, and the North's military has repeatedly vowed in the past to scrap the 1953 armistice. North Korea wants a formal peace treaty, security guarantees and other concessions, as well as the removal of 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.

Still, South Korean and U.S. officials have been closely monitoring Pyongyang's actions and parsing the torrent of recent rhetoric from the North, which has been more warlike than usual.