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New N. Korea threats against South, U.S.

N. Korea issued new threats after protesters in Seoul burned effigies of the North's leaders. N. Korea threatened retaliatory measures against S. Korea and "unspecified military countermeasures" unless the U.S. stops conducting military drills nearby.

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After Pyongyang's latest volley of rhetoric, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said South Korea was closely monitoring its moves and would "thoroughly and resolutely punish North Korea if it launches any provocation for whatever reason."

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The calm over the past two days in Pyongyang has been a striking contrast to the steady flow of retaliatory threats North Korea has issued over ongoing military exercises between South Korea and the United States. Though the maneuvers, called Foal Eagle, are held regularly, North Korea was particularly angry over their inclusion this year of nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers and F-22 fighters.

"The ultimatum is just North Korea's way of saying that it's not willing or ready to talk with the South," said Chang Yong-seok at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University. "North Korea apparently wants to keep the cross-border relations tense for some time to come."

The Tuesday ultimatum comes just after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a tour to coordinate Washington's response with Beijing, North Korea's most important ally, as well as with Seoul and Tokyo. Kerry said a missile test would be provocation that would further isolate the country and its impoverished people. He said Sunday that the U.S. was "prepared to reach out," but that Pyongyang must first bring down tensions and honor previous agreements.

Pyongyang is open to talks but not with the United States, the North's foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the KCNA state news agency, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

"The DPRK (North Korea) is not opposed to dialogue but has no idea of sitting at the humiliating negotiating table with the party brandishing a nuclear stick," the statement said.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told a parliamentary committee Monday that North Korea still appeared poised to launch a missile from its east coast. North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test in February, has already been slapped with strengthened U.N. sanctions for violating Security Council resolutions barring the regime from nuclear and missile activity.

To further coordinate their response, South Korea's new president, Park Geun-hye, will meet with President Barack Obama on May 7 at the White House.

"While we take these provocations from North Korea seriously, the Park Geun-hye government remains calm yet resolute vis-a-vis North Korea," Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told reporters in Seoul on Monday. "Based on the overwhelming combined deterrent capability of the Korea-US alliance and solidarity of the international community, our frontline is secure, and our society remains calm and stable."

The U.S.-South Korean military drills are scheduled to end April 30. On Tuesday, a Marine CH-53E helicopter made a "hard landing" during the exercises, according to a statement from United States Forces Korea. Twenty-one personnel were on board the helicopter, including five crew members, the statement said. All were taken to the hospital, but 15 were quickly released. The remaining six were in stable condition.

Associated Press writers Sam Kim and Hyung-jin Kim contributed to this report from Seoul, South Korea.

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