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Forced marriage in Australia: Part 1

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

Anyone deemed to have forced another person into marriage now faces a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

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The new laws also encompass any third party whose conduct is found to have caused another person, identified as the victim, to enter into the union without consent.

This includes by way of coercion, threat or deception.

Migrant service providers have welcomed the move, but warn it has serious implications for a number of non-English speaking communities.

In the first in a two-part series, Kristina Kukolja takes a look at the issue of forced marriage in Australia.

“Marriage is something people don’t talk about. It’s not a topic which we discuss with our friends. Only the family knows it. So, very few people will come out and say: Our marriage happened that way. His father had a business contract with my father and both parents from both sides decided it would be a good idea to get me married to their son, and that way they would form a stronger business arrangement between both families. Basically, she lived in fear that if she [would] not accept this proposal, her mother would be beaten up and would be divorced, and she would be the cause of her mother entering that tunnel of pain.”

The United Nations has declared forced marriage a form of human rights abuse, but it’s a practice that’s still perpetuated in many countries around the world.

In Australia, migrant and women’s service providers are beginning to piece together a picture of how forced marriages are affecting the country’s migrant communities.

The Melbourne-based Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition provides support and self-improvement programs for women of non-English speaking backgrounds, particularly refugees.

It says forced marriage is seen in communities originating in the Middle East, as well as in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.

Men are known to be among the victims, but cases involving women are much more widely reported.

The Immigrant Women’s Coalition says reasons for the practice vary, and include immigration and financial status.

Spokeswoman Safa Abdul says the organisation has seen cases in Victoria involving women of all ages, married abroad and in Australia.

She describes one of the more typical scenarios.

“You’re here in Australia and you’re an Australian citizen, but from a specific ethnic background, you have some relatives overseas and obviously they are still in their home country, or even family members because these communities live within a close-knit community. Let’s say your parents have these well-established connections back in their home country and then what ends up happening is that she (the young woman) would go back or be taken back saying “You have no choice, I am the father, I am the voice of authority.” They would be taken back to their home country, they get into a marriage there, come back into Australia and lodge a spousal visa, or whichever visa it would be — this is one simple scenario, it varies with each case. Even within Australia, it doesn’t necessarily have to be outside of Australia.”

Dr Reeta Verma is a lawyer and family dispute resolution practitioner for the Indian community in Melbourne.

She cautions against confusing forced marriages with arranged marriages, which are part of Indian culture, and permitted under Australian law.

Dr Verma says through her work she has encountered couples whose marriages have come about without the full consent of both parties.

But she says, in the Indian community in Australia it’s a taboo discussion topic.

“Marriage is something people don’t talk about. It is not a topic which we discuss with our friends — only the family knows about it — so very few people will come out and say: my marriage came about that way (forced). When the marriage happens, marriage is a marriage. So, we’ll find out whether the marriage is arranged or forced. So, as a family dispute resolution practitioner, I may find out whether the marriage is forced or arranged when I talk to the couple if there is a family dispute. We will find out at a very late stage because normally we are very secretive about our marriage.”

The Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition recently analysed 200 domestic violence-related cases handled by one of its counselling programs over a two-year period.

It says at least 30 per cent were indentified as involving forced marriage.

The Coalition says the concentration of cases was found to be in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs.

Spokeswoman Safa Abdul says the organisation is liaising with authorities to document a link between domestic violence and forced marriage.

“The first thing that possibly happens, and from our counselling cases that we’ve identified is that there are a lot of cases of domestic violence and threats, and we’re trying to link that with forced marriages, because obviously if the marriage has been forced and there are a lot of disagreements in the marriage later on and a lot of issues arising such as financial issues, all sorts of issues, a lot of domestic violence happens. That is what we dealt with a lot. It’s different scenarios, but at the end of the day there’s always been an element of violence there.”

Safa Abdul says the Immigrant Women’s Coalition is now focusing its research in Melbourne on forced marriages among high school girls of migrant backgrounds.

She says increasing reports from schools indicate that girls as young as 14 are being prepared for marriage overseas, or even in Australia.

Ms Abdul says they’re turning to their teachers and school counsellors for help.

“Even when you look at studies overseas, for example in the UK [which has been] quite successful with this issue, and the United States, what happens is that before the school holidays and here in Australia around December and November, that’s when you get more calls and that’s because they’re being taken back to their home countries for the marriage to be arranged or here in Australia because that’s the time where it’s most suitable for them to have that and that’s when the schools receive complaints or issues from the girls, who are saying: How do I deal with it? How do I convince my parents otherwise? How do I even speak to them?”

To engage with girls of a Pakistani background, the Immigrant Women’s Coalition has brought into the project Dr Monica Zaman.

Dr Zaman has a history of research in Pakistan in the area of intellectual disability as a result of consanguineous marriages.

Her research identified that a large number of the studied marriages had come about by force.

Dr Zaman says the practice is present in Melbourne’s Pakistani communities.

She says in certain cases it’s a way of maintaining family ties, or keeping property in the family, but some young girls are tricked into marrying a relative.

“In my country the girls cannot say anything and the parents decide everything. Here they just talk to the girls, saying this is only because of family ties and we can bring our family members here. Or sometimes they just talk to their daughters saying we are just going for an outing or we are going to visit our relatives and then they force them to marry their cousins.”

Egyptian-born psychologist, Doctor Eman Sharobeem, has dedicated her life to raising awareness about forced marriage.

She is a Commissioner for the Community Relations Commission of New South Wales, which is conducting its own inquiry into forced marriages, and the manager of the Immigrant Women’s Health Service in Sydney.

Dr Sharobeem says the profile of women she’s counselled in connection with forced marriage range from young girls to women who have been married for decades — from countries including Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Iran and Turkey.

She says the notion of force in the context of marriage is often perceived as being limited to that of physical force, which is present in some situations.

But she reveals marriages can be regarded as forced, even when consent is given.

Dr Sharobeem says some girls she’s seen are enticed by potential partners with promises of wealth or freedom from controlling parents, often the father.

She adds, what’s not talked about as much is the role a mother can play in creating that consent.

“It’s not that a young girl is grabbed [by] her hand or her hair, or has been forced physically only. The community at large understand the meaning of force, but maybe we need to emphasise the psychological manipulation of the young girl by the most important figure in her life, which is her mother, in most of the cases. This is never translated into forced, but it is translated into love and care and extra support and an extra dose of influence from the parents to see their daughters at a young age raising a family.”

Dr Sharobeem says one of her young clients agreed to marry a man out of fear for another family member.

“Basically, she lived in fear that if she would not accept this proposal, her mother would be beaten up and would be divorced, and she would be the cause of her mother going into that tunnel of pain and agony. So, as a compensation to satisfy her father she said, “Yes, don’t touch my mum and don’t divorce her and leave her stereotyped and stigmatised as a divorcee, I will accept this marriage.” Many cases come to our doors of that as well.”

Dr Sharobeem recalls her own experience when, as a 14-year-old girl in Egypt, she was promised to her cousin, whom she married four years later.

“The engagement was long and was very untrue. The second day of the marriage I saw exactly who is the person I am relating to and being with and that was the shock of my life. But I kept it and stayed in the marriage because I had many fears. One fear which he put and drew in my mind was that if I would say a word my parents would be harmed and most of the cases, I am not the only one, have been threatened and also the fear of carrying the title of being a divorced woman in a community — whether here or over there in our homeland — would stigmatise me and would live on me for the rest of my life.”

Girls hoping to escape forced marriages abroad are also among those seeking protection in Australia.

Under the United Nations Refugee Convention, gender-related persecution is a grounds for seeking asylum.

19-year-old Sarah, as she has asked to be known, comes from an affluent Middle Eastern family.

At the age of 14, it was decided she would marry the son of one of her father’s business partners.

Sarah has asked that her voice be disguised.

“His father had a business contract with my father and both parents from both sides decided that it would be a good idea to get me married to their son, and that way they would form a stronger business arrangement between both families. And the mother saw me as a potential wife for him. When they first told me I was going to marry the man, I didn’t know the man, I didn’t know the family, and I don’t even remember seeing his mother, but apparently I was at a social event, I think it was a wedding and she spotted me because back home the mothers look for potential wives for their sons. So, how they do it is they go to their friends’ house of social events to mingle and to spot potential wives and I guess that’s how she found me.//I thought I was not worthy enough to be respected enough for the man to actually get to know me and for him to decide to marry me or not, and I was too young to actually make a decision and marriage is a life-long thing and you don’t, just out of nowhere, pick to marry the girl that was 14.”

Sarah says with the help of a female family member she was able to escape to Australia, where she has lived for three years after being granted a protection visa.

She says she can relate to the confusion other young girls may experience when faced with the prospect of being made to marry against their will.

“When these young girls look back they see their mothers getting married at a young age and their grandmothers and their aunts. At the same time they look at the western side of things where girls don’t get married at 12 or 13. And this causes a dilemma when a guy proposes to them and they’re forced into a marriage and they think: is this a forced marriage or is this a marriage?”

That ends Part One of a special two-part series.

View More: Insight program on forced marriages

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‘Rape’ pages in Facebook crackdown

Facebook agreed to review and update its procedures after a number of advertisers responded to a boycott request from a coalition of more than 100 activist groups.

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The campaign called for the removal of pages that promoted acts of sexual violence, including those with names such as “Fly kicking bitches in the face”, which had more than 30,000 fans earlier today.

Marne Levine, VP of Global Public Policy at Facebook, posted a note on the site confirming that policies would be reviewed and updated, and moderating staff would undergo extra training to be able to better cope with “controversial, harmful and hateful speech”.

“In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate,” she wrote.

“In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we would want. In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using out-dated criteria.”

At least 15 advertisers, including Nisson UK, pulled advertising from Facebook after lobbying from the US-based Women, Action & the Media and the Everyday Sexism Project.

Facebook, criticised in the past for its tolerance of racist pages, has been careful to retain some elasticity in what it defines as “hate speech”, and Levine reminded users that content that may be offensive will not necessarily be banned.

“We work hard to remove hate speech quickly, however there are instances of offensive content, including distasteful humor, that are not hate speech according to our definition,” she wrote.

“In these cases, we work to apply fair, thoughtful, and scalable policies. This approach allows us to continue defending the principles of freedom of self-expression on which Facebook is founded.”

The activist coalition indicated it was “pleased” with the development.

Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of Women Action and the Media (WAM!), said in a statement on the same organisation’s website: “We are reaching an international tipping point in attitudes towards rape and violence against women. We hope that this effort stands as a testament to the power of collaborative action.”

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Forced marriage in Australia: Part 2

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

Migrant community leaders are being urged to work closely with service providers and law enforcement authorities to raise awareness about forced marriages in Australia.

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It comes after the Australian Parliament passed legislation criminalising the practice.

Migrant and women’s groups say ethnic communities affected by forced marriage need to begin talking openly about the issue.

But they say those working with them must also understand the values underpinning family relationships and the rite of marriage in different cultures.

Kristina Kukolja as more in the second of a two-part series on forced marriages in Australia.

“Probably what we know is the tip of the iceberg, so whatever we think we know, I would say it’s probably times ten.//It’s something that not only affects the victim or not only affects the schools, not only affects the community, it affects everyone.// I don’t want the government or the law enforcement agencies to deal with this heavily handed because I know it could, based on my background and experience, it may backfire.”

Changes to federal laws mean that a person believed to have forced another person to marry against their will can be charged with a criminal offence and, if convicted, jailed for up to seven years.

A friend or family member found to have helped facilitate a forced marriage can also now be prosecuted under Commonwealth law.

Migrant and women’s service providers say the Parliament’s decision is a step in the right direction, but comes at a time when very little is still known about the actual extent of forced marriage in Australia.

They say data is largely anecdotal and gathered independently by various non-government organisations, from state to state.

Some insight can be gleaned from cases taken to the Family Court; for example, young girls who’ve pursued legal action to prevent them from being sent overseas to be married.

Tina Jelinic is a project officer with the End Forced Child Marriage project at the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre in Sydney.

She says Family Court data provides merely a glimpse into forced marriages in Australia.

“Family Court decisions have been those where girls have been put on airport watch lists and they’ve sort of wanted to prevent themselves being sent overseas usually for the purposes of a marriage. So, they are very interesting and they reveal that legal aspect, but that is just one aspect of forced child marriage. Not all victims come forward, not all of them seek legal redress, so these are sort of particular representations of the issue and our research shows a much broader range of responses and options.”

In New South Wales and Victoria, some migrant and women’s service providers have turned their attention to reports of high school girls from certain ethnic communities being prepared for marriage.

These include girls of Middle Eastern backgrounds from countries such as Lebanon and Turkey, as well as others from South Asia.

Sydney psychologist Dr Eman Sharobeem is the manager of the Immigrant Women’s Health Service and a vocal activist against forced marriage.

She says despite becoming engaged to a man at the age of 14, she doesn’t believe her parents’ choice of a husband for her was motivated by an intent to harm.

She says it’s important to understand that forced marriage is a long-standing cultural practice brought to Australia, not unique to any particular religion.

According to Dr Sharobeem, it can also be driven by fear of a new and foreign environment.

“I do have a case where the father came to me with a 14-year-old pregnant young married girl to say: I’m just here to tell you our good news, thank god our daughter got married and we’re celebrating her and now she is pregnant. So, yes it is celebrated in some other cultures and some other religions, but we can’t really talk about specific religion, it just happens as a cultural norm. It happens widely because of the fear that the particular girl will go out, will date, will have sex out of marriage and will bring shame to the family, it is the fear that the girl will go out and date even without any sexual practice as a result of this date, it is the fear for the family honour.”

The Victorian Immigrant and Refuge Women’s Coalition’s Safa Abdul says many women may not be aware of the new laws, and they could in fact have an unintended effect.

“This could possibly put them into more isolation. It would come across as too aggressive for them because you have to put yourself in the mentality of the victim and their shoes. How would you, if you were in such a specific family from such a specific background at a certain age — you have to take the age as a factor, imagine you’re 15 years old and all of these things are happening and then you hear that it’s been criminalised and possibly members of my family can go to prison for seven years.”

The Salvation Army operates a safe house for women in New South Wales.

Among the residents are women classified as victims of forced marriage.

Jenny Stanger, who runs the facility, says she hopes the criminalisation of forced marriage in Australia will generate more exposure for the issue.

And, in turn, pave the way for better services for those who choose to seek help.

“It’s a very traumatic experience for people to leave their families and to leave their community. It’s very distressing, it’s very traumatic. It’s a really difficult decision. They need a lot of support; they need immediate support around the grief and loss of their family. They have to reinvent their lives, reinvent their identity to a certain extent and they have some very tricky decisions to make — particularly around legal actions that they may or may not want to take against their own family. For young people in particular these are really big decisions that require a lot of support.”

Service providers say another category of victims of forced marriage who shouldn’t be forgotten, are women who come to Australia from abroad under spousal or other visas.

Maja Avdibegovic is CEO of In Touch, a migrant women’s service in Melbourne.

Ms Avdibegovic says the exact number of forced marriage cases in these categories is difficult to ascertain, but the safe house has accepted women seeking to escape domestic violence, who report having been forced into marriage.

She says they’ve been from countries in Africa, South Asia, and even central and eastern Europe.

These women, she says, are in a particularly difficult position when wanting to seek help.

“They’re on their own. They don’t have anyone else that they know in the country apart from their partner or their husband. They don’t know the language, they don’t know the system. There are no social networks that can support them. They’re very isolated and very vulnerable. For them even to step up and ask for support, that’s a big step.”

Ms Avdibegovic says the main problem for women, potential victims of forced marriage, without permanent residency is the uncertainty surrounding their immigration status.

This, she says, can play into the hands of a possibly abusive partner.

“It puts them in an even better position to be even more controlling that they can manipulate them really easily. There are always threats that they could be easily deported because they don’t have enough information about their rights here in Australia. So, it actually gives perpetrators more control.”

In Melbourne, the Indian community has been identified as one migrant group in which forced marriages occur.

Family resolution dispute practitioner, Dr Reeta Verma says she expects some resistance from members to the new legislation.

“Parents will say that, well this was for the best of both families, this is the best partner they could have, so you are misjudging our judgment about this marriage. So, that’s where the community, especially the community leaders, need to know that they have to inform the community that when the marriage happens the marriage has to be between two partners who are freely and voluntarily giving their consent to get into that relationship.”

Several years ago, the federal government called for submissions to a discussion paper on forced and servile marriages, which it drew upon in creating the new laws.

One of submissions came from the Muslim Legal Network, a national body representing Muslim lawyers in Australia, which supports criminalisation of forced marriage.

A member of the Network’s committee, solicitor Mohamed Ragab, says Islam requires consent for partners to enter into marriage, but many Muslim communities in Australia tolerate forced marriages.

He describes it as a problem and says authorities and service providers must tread carefully when trying to break through to these communities.

Mr Ragab sees an opportunity for young Muslims to play a part.

“I would be careful enforcing this (the new law criminalising forced marriage) or imposing this on a community. I don’t want the government of the law enforcement agencies to deal with this heavily handed because I know it could, based on my background and experience, it may backfire and that’s why I am saying it should be introduced first and hopefully many of the young educated Muslims in Australia would take on the issue and will accept it and therefore could spread even more.”

Family dispute resolutions practitioner Reeta Verma says religious and ethnic community leaders should lead by example in cooperating with external groups working to raise awareness about forced marriage.

“Community leaders have to come out of their closet and come of out of their comfort zone and say that now there is a new law here we are as parents we have responsibilities that sure enough you can arrange a marriage for your child for the best interest of your child, but at the same time, you must make sure there is a free and voluntary consent by both parties before the marriage happens. So these laws can only work if the community knows about them, and the community works in consensus with and on the same lines with the police and authorities. So, police have been given the wider powers under the new laws, but police have to reach out to the communities and ask what way they can help to make this issue an issue which needs to be debated in the community openly.”

The National Children’s and Youth Law Centre hopes it can contribute to bridging the gap between authorities, service providers and migrant communities affected by forced marriages.

The NSW-based group is preparing to release the first national report on forced marriage in Australia.

To this end it’s surveyed hundreds of federal and state, and non-government organisations, as well as practitioners and case workers who’ve come into contact with the practice.

Spokeswoman Tina Jelinic says the report will offer best practice guidelines relating to forced marriage — particularly for social workers and counsellors, government and law enforcement officers, as well as lawyers and migrant community groups.

She says it’s also expected to feature material for children and young people detailing their rights and responsibilities under Australian law.

Tina Jelinic.

“The issue has been happening and case workers have been encountering it, but there hasn’t been too much of an avenue to express what’s been happening, there’s a lot of frameworks around violence against women, domestic violence, trafficking and so on, but there hasn’t been a clear and distinct avenue through which to voice the experience of forced marriage because it doesn’t necessarily fit neatly within those distinct frameworks, even though of course it cuts across them, so I think there hasn’t been a unified coordinated effort or avenue through which caseworkers can come forward and contribute.”

The Victorian Immigrant and Refuge Women’s Coalition is developing printed materials for distribution to high school girls from affected migrant communities.

It’s also working to bring together community leaders, schools and service providers to discuss forced marriage and its recent criminalisation.

Later this year, it will present an analysis of its research at a United Nations women’s round table event in Canberra, and to the federal government.

Spokeswoman Safa Abdul says there’s a need for open discussion about the issue.

“It’s something that not only affects the victim or not only affects the schools, not only affects the community, it affects everyone. So, if there is a case of a forced marriage, it’s something that’s gonig to affect all these members and all the members who are affected should come together to an understanding and not just an understanding, but a point of communication to see each other’s perspective, to see what are the school’s concerns, what do the schools think, what do the schools encounter in terms of obstacles. Maybe if those obstacles are possibly overcome by service providers then there’s a success.”

That ends Part Two of a special two-part series.

View More: Insight program on forced marriages

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Comment: Flashpoint Korea – ignored at Australia’s peril

Australia is currently getting a wake-up call about the risk of war right in the centre of the East Asian industrial network driving its prosperity.

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The Korean peninsula attracts minimal attention in Australia’s security considerations. North Korea got only two lines of comment in the Gillard government’s recent white paper Australia in the Asian Century, which also dropped Korean as a priority language for our schools. The 2009 Defence White Paper gave some space to the threat to Australia of nuclear proliferation by North Korea and the possibility of conflict on the peninsula but suggested ‘other scenarios’ were much more likely.

Australia’s defence and security policy framework assigns limited importance to conflict on the Korean peninsula in assessing threats to Australia. This reflects an underestimation of the importance of a stable Korean peninsula for Australia’s future and highlights a significant weakness in Australia’s defence and security planning.

The so-called ‘other scenarios’ should be of interest to Australia’s defence planners. Threats to Australia emanate not only from the conventional and nuclear capabilities of North Korea, but non-traditional security threats presented by the decaying and corrupt North Korean political, economic and social system.

Political change in North Korea will bring significant instability to South Korea and the broader Northeast Asian region. Such change could result from various developments: the collapse of the North Korean government, gradual political and economic decay, reform and opening initiated by Pyongyang, weapons proliferation by the North, a move by South Korea to obtain a nuclear capability, or conflict between Japan and North Korea.

Conflict, collapse or other events on the Korean peninsula would have immediate impact on Australia.

Even without being drawn directly into a war between North and South, the economic effect would be huge. South Korea is Australia’s third largest export market and fourth largest two-way trading partner, not to mention indirect effects from disruption of its trade with China and Japan.

Australia’s interest would lie in the swift and effective restoration of peace and stability. The participation of the ADF in such efforts would be inevitable.

Another danger could come from criminality on the part of the existing regime or other groups within North Korea that might seek to profit from selling weapons and other contraband to governments and groups adverse to Australia’s interests.

A further crisis would call on Australia to join an international effort to meet the vast and acute humanitarian needs of North Korea’s 23 million people. This would be accompanied by large outflows of refugees, and biohazards like the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis highly prevalent in North Korea.

The 2009 Defence White Paper did recognise that the collapse of the North would require ‘deft management by the Korean people, but also by the major powers of the region…All states would have a common interest in assisting the Korean people to successfully manage any reunification of the peninsula’.

Given Australia’s economic reliance on Korea, its historic precedent of involvement on the peninsula and its growing status as an Asian nation, our role in any peace-keeping, humanitarian or stability-promoting exercise would not be insignificant.

Our defence and foreign policy planners would be wise to build up the knowledge and language skills that these contingencies would call upon, and develop understanding with US, Chinese, South Korean and Japanese counterparts to reduce the dangers of miscalculation.

Australia has an unusual regional position holding diplomatic relations with both North and South Korea. If Canberra wants to have a stake in the future of the Korean peninsula and the wider Asian region, a direct diplomatic presence in Pyongyang is essential. Australia should also encourage the re-establishment of the North Korean embassy in Canberra.

Dr Emma Campbell is the Korea Institute Postdoctoral Fellow in the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific.

This article is edited from a paper in the “Centre of Gravity” series of the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.

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Timeline: North Korean Missile Crisis

April 5, 2013: North Korea moves a medium-range missile to its east coast, according to South Korean government officials.

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April 3, 2013: Access to the joint industrial complex of Kaesong is delayed as tensions between the north and the south increase. The complex is an important diplomatic and economic venture for both nations. It lies 10 kilometres inside the border of North Korea.

April 2, 2013: The United States positions a destroyer capable of shooting down missiles off the North Korean coast.

March 30, 2013: North Korea declares a ‘state of war’ with South Korea, and warns Seoul and Washington that any provocation will be met with retaliation. The United States said it would take the threat seriously, while South Korea dismissed the claims as renewed posturing.

March 29, 2013: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un orders preparations for strategic rocket strikes on the US mainland and military bases.

March 28, 2013: North Korea cuts its military “hotline” with South Korea, breaking the last direct communication link between the two countries.

March 26, 2013: Media reports from North Korea indicate the military is entering a combat-ready status, with its rockets pointed towards the US mainland.

March 21, 2013: North Korea threatens US military bases in Japan and Guam, but stops short of naming any specific targets.

March 11, 2013: South Korea and the US launch a joint military exercise, prompting North Korea to sever a Red Cross hotline between Seoul and Pyongyang.

March 8, 2013: North Korea scraps peace pacts with the South, as the UN Security Council ramped up sanctions against the rogue state over its nuclear threats.

PAST THREATS AND ACTIONS

Recent escalations between the north and south are just the latest in a historically tense relationship. Although an armistice was signed in 1963 to signal the end of fighting, the Korean War has technically never ended.

Some of the more significant events:

March 29, 2010: North Korea torpedoes a South Korean Navy ship, killing 46 sailors. The Cheonan warship sank after an explosion ripped through its hull. Pyongyang denied involvement in the sinking.

November 23, 2010: One South Korean marine is killed and 13 injured when North Korean artillery shell the border island of Yeonpyeon.

November 19, 1987: A Korean Air passenger jet explodes mid-air after a bomb was placed on board. All 115 people on board were killed. The bomb was later found to have been planted by two North Korean agents.

August 18, 1976: Two US military officers are hacked to death by North Korean soldiers with axes. The incident occurred over a disagreement over a tree that was being chopped down in the Joint Security Area on the border of North and South Korea.

April 15, 1969: A US Navy aircraft is shot down by North Korean aircraft over the Sea of Japan.

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