In brief: U.S., South Korea start military drills
SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea and the United States began annual military drills today 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.
India rape suspect hangs self in prison
NEW DELHI – The main suspect in the gang rape and fatal beating of a woman on a New Delhi bus, an attack that horrified Indians and set off national protests, committed suicide in jail today, officials said.
Ram Singh, who is accused of driving the bus on which a 23-year-old student was raped and fatally assaulted by a group of six men in December, hung himself with his own clothes, a police official at Tihar jail said. Along with four other men on trial with him on rape, murder and abduction charges, Singh was under a suicide watch, the official said. The sixth accused, a juvenile, is being tried and jailed separately.
Earthquake shakes Papua New Guinea
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea – A strong magnitude-6.7 earthquake has struck Papua New Guinea but there are no immediate reports of damage and no regional tsunami alert.
Chris McKee, assistant director of the Geophysical Observatory in Port Moresby, said the earthquake’s epicenter was relatively deep and some way offshore so it was unlikely to have caused major problems.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake struck this morning about 198 miles north of the capital Port Moresby and was centered about 52 miles below sea level.
Papua New Guinea is on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones that stretches around the Pacific Rim.