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Tensions running high at Koreas' Demilitarized Zone

South Korean soldiers patrol the barbed-wire fence of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea, in Hwacheon on August 26, 2015. (AFP Photo)

Tensions between the two Koreas have increased significantly along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

"Something could happen at any time," a North Korean military official told The Associated Press on Monday.

"People come here and they think it's like a resort. But if you know it better, you know how dangerous it is," Lt. Col. Nam Dong Ho of the North Korean People's Army said on Monday in Panmunjom, the truce village where the armistice was signed.

He said he could not comment on operational details but added, "The reality is that it is touch and go."

South Korean soldiers stand guard on the road leading to the Kaesong joint industrial zone at a checkpoint near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas, on February 11, 2016. (AFP Photo)

The rise in tensions between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington comes at a time when the US and South Korea are preparing for their annual war games slated to begin early in March.

Some 15,000 US troops are expected to take part in the two-phased exercises, known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle.

Pyongyang sees joint Seoul-Washington military maneuvers as a direct threat against its security and preparations for an invasion and war.

Meanwhile on Saturday, Seoul said North Korea had fired artillery shots during an apparent military exercise near a disputed maritime border with the South amid heightened tensions between the two neighbors.

The North Korean army fired “a few artillery rounds” on Saturday morning from a battery at Jangsangot promontory on its southern coast, the South’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Pyongyang “is believed to have conducted a military drill” north of the disputed sea front-line with the South, the statement added.

In January, North Korea conducted a nuclear test, and in February a long-range rocket launch.

Pyongyang said the rocket launch was aimed at placing an earth observation satellite into orbit. However, Washington and Seoul denounced the move as a cover for an intercontinental ballistic missile test.​

Vehicles cross the Tongil bridge leading away from the Kaesong joint industrial area and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas in Paju on February 10, 2016. (AFP Photo)

North Korea has vowed to develop a nuclear arsenal in an effort to protect itself from the US military, which occasionally deploys nuclear-powered warships and aircraft capable of carrying atomic weapons in the region.

The 257-kilometer (160-mile) DMZ was established when the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. No peace deal has been signed since then, meaning that Pyongyang and Seoul remain technically at war.

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