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S. Korea Refuses to Return N. Korea Refugees

South Korean authorities Friday rejected North Korea's demand to send back nine refugees from the communist state, an issue that could further chill frosty relations.

The three men, two women and four children crossed the Yellow Sea border last Saturday in two small boats, with the North's Red Cross warning Thursday that relations could worsen unless the South immediately sends them back.

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S. Korea Vows Strong Response if N. Korea Attacks

South Korea's military must retaliate "strongly and thoroughly" if North Korea attacks again, President Lee Myung-Bak said Wednesday.

He made the remarks in a speech read out on his behalf at the inauguration of a new military command, created to bolster defenses on islands near the disputed Yellow Sea border.

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U.S. Intercepted N. Korea Ship over Arms Fears

The U.S. Navy intercepted a North Korean ship suspected of carrying missiles or other weapons to Myanmar and made it turn back, a senior U.S. official said Monday.

The comments by Gary Samore, special assistant to President Barack Obama on weapons of mass destruction, confirmed reports of the incident, which happened last month, in The New York Times and South Korean media.

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Sources: N. Korea Test-Fired Missile to ‘Improve Capability’

North Korea test-fired a short-range missile off its west coast last week in the first such launch for 19 months, South Korean sources said Wednesday.

The launch was seen as a routine test to improve the country's missile capability, the sources said, declining to give details. The defense ministry had no comment.

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N. Korea Won't Deal with Seoul Government, Threatens to ‘Retaliate to Psychological Warfare’

North Korea said Monday it would no longer deal with South Korea and threatened to retaliate against any moves by Seoul to wage "psychological warfare".

The North's powerful National Defense Commission (NDC) said in a statement it would also cut a military communications line on the east coast and shut a liaison office at the jointly-run Mount Kumgang resort.

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U.S. Detainee for Half Year 'Leaves North Korea'

An American citizen detained in North Korea since November on unspecified charges was Saturday on a plane heading back to the United States with a U.S. delegation, Chinese state media reported.

Official Chinese news agency Xinhua said that a team from the U.S. State Department had flown out of communist North Korea with the detained man.

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North Korea Will Release U.S. Detainee Held on Unspecified Charges

North Korea said Friday it has decided to release a U.S. citizen held since November on unspecified charges, following requests from a U.S. official who is assessing possible food aid.

Eddie Jun Yong-Su, a California-based businessman, was detained for apparent missionary activities in the hard line communist state, colleagues say.

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U.S. Imposes Sanctions against Firms Dealing with Iran

The United States on Tuesday announced it is imposing sanctions against seven foreign firms, including Venezuelan, Singaporean, and Israeli companies, as part of efforts to check Iran's nuclear ambitions.

It also imposed sanctions against 16 other foreign firms and individuals, including from China, over trade with Iran, Syria and North Korea in goods or technology that may be used for weapons of mass destruction or missiles.

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S. Korea Fortifies Shelters on Islands Near N. Korea

South Korea is spending millions of dollars to fortify shelters on five frontline islands near its tense sea border with North Korea in case of any future attacks, an official said Monday.

The move follows an artillery and rocket barrage by the North last November against Yeongpyeong Island, which killed two marines and two civilians. The South has sent more troops and weaponry to the islands since the attack.

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S. Korea Holds Live-Fire Drill Near Tense Border

South Korea launched a major live-fire drill Thursday near the tense land border with North Korea in a show of strength marking the first anniversary of the sinking of one of its warships.

Tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery pieces, helicopters and jets took part in the drill at the Pocheon range, 30 kilometers south of the border, the defense ministry said.

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