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South Korea Stops Propaganda Release After North Issues Threat

South Korean police officers on Monday block a truck containing anti-North Korea leaflets on a road near the Demilitarized Zone dividing the nations. Seoul barred activists from launching propaganda leaflets into North Korea after Pyongyang threatened to attack in retaliation (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon). South Korean police officers on Monday block a truck containing anti-North Korea leaflets on a road near the Demilitarized Zone dividing the nations. Seoul barred activists from launching propaganda leaflets into North Korea after Pyongyang threatened to attack in retaliation (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon).

South Korean law enforcement officials on Monday physically prevented the dissemination of anti-North Korea pamphlets across the border following warnings from the Pyongyang of a "merciless" retaliation should the propaganda campaign go forward, according to a New York Times report.

Activists had intended to use balloons to send 200,000 leaflets from the border town of Imjingak into North Korea, the world's most closed-off society. Police roadblocks kept the activists from carrying our their paper drop. The South Korean government also prohibited reporting from and excursion trips to the village.

"South Korea retreated under a North Korean threat and once you retreat under this kind of blackmail, you will continue to be pushed back," anti-North Korea activist and leaflet campaign organizer Kim Seong Min said. "At this very moment, our people are looking for a new place to launch our balloons."

The South Korean military directed hundreds of South Korean residents living near the border to seek shelter in reinforced structures. North Korea on Friday specifically warned "South Korea inhabitants at Imjin Pavilion" to evacuate ahead of potential attacks on the border village.

The last time North Korea attacked the South was the November 2010 shelling of Yeonpyeong island -- an incident that killed four South Koreans and for months afterwards raised the possible specter of another inter-Korean war.

The South Korean military has promised a swift retribution should the North carry out its threatened strikes on Imjingak. 

"Our military units near Imjingak are maintaining readiness to immediately return artillery fire. We are closely watching the North Korean military's movements," an anonymous high-ranking South Korean military official told the Yonhap News Agency.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department on Sunday said it would "continue to hold the D.P.R.K. to its denuclearization commitments and obligations," responding to recently reported Pyongyang threats to renege on its September 2005 promise to eventually shutter its nuclear weapons program, Yonhap separately reported.

"The international community will never accept the D.P.R.K. as a nuclear weapons power," the anonymous department official said.

The official would not discuss the veracity of recent news reports that senior Pyongyang officials warned a senior U.S. nuclear negotiator in late September their government would renege on the 2005 pledge if the United States continued perceived hostile policies against North Korea.

"We have long made clear we are open to improved relations with the D.P.R.K. if it is willing to take clear actions to live up to its international obligations and commitments," the U.S. official said.

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