North Korea abandons armistice: 4 key questions answered

Tensions on the Korean peninsula are ratcheting up. The US has started its annual war games with South Korean forces, and North Korea has used that fact to declare that it is invalidating the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953. What really has North Korea upset, though, is the tough, new sanctions passed by the United Nations in response to the North's nuclear test last month.

Here are the top four questions analysts are wrestling with on the heels of these developments.

Q. The US and South Korean military launched military exercises this month. What are they for?

Ahn Young-joon/Reuters/File
The South Korean Army participates in Foal Eagle, a joint maneuver between South Korea and the US near the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas in this 2012 file photo. This year's exercises began on March 1.

A. The series of military drills, which go by the operational names Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, are annual exercises and are scheduled to last for the next two months.  

North Korea has deemed these exercises “an open declaration of war.” US military officials, on the other hand, insist that the exercises are defensive in nature, and unrelated to current tensions.   

More than 3,000 US troops are scheduled to take part in the exercises.   

These war games enable US forces to practice for “a whole range of contingencies that we can only guess at – which on Day 1 [of any potential future attack] will have to be recalibrated,” says Cronin. “War games allow you to think through state collapse [of North Korea], provocation, or use of a dirty bomb.”

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