World Briefs

U.S. begins drills as N. Korea threatens war

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea and the United States began annual military drills today despite North Korean threats to respond by voiding the armistice that ended the Korean War and launching a nuclear attack on the U.S.

After the start of the drills, South Korean officials said the north didn’t answer two calls on a hotline between the sides, apparently following through on an earlier vow to cut the communication channel because of the drills.

Pyongyang has launched a bombast-filled propaganda campaign against the drills, which involve 10,000 South Korean and about 3,000 American troops, and last week’s U.N. vote to impose new sanctions over the North’s Feb. 12 nuclear test. Analysts believe that much of that campaign is meant to shore up loyalty among citizens and the military for North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un.

Pyongyang isn’t believed to be able to build a warhead small enough to mount on a long-range missile, and the North’s military has repeatedly vowed in the past to scrap the 1953 armistice. North Korea wants a formal peace treaty, security guarantees and other concessions, as well as the removal of 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.

Venezuelan opposition to run for president

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles is set to announce he will run in elections to replace Hugo Chavez, setting up a make-or-break encounter against the dead president’s hand-picked successor, a close adviser to the candidate says.

“He will accept” the nomination, the adviser told The Associated Press. He spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the decision publicly ahead of a formal announcement scheduled for later in the day.

Other opposition sources refused to comment, but a political consultant at ORC Consultores, which advises Capriles, also said he would run.

Cardinals celebrate Mass across Rome

VATICAN CITY – Cardinals took a break from maneuvering ahead of this week’s papal conclave to fan out across Rome and celebrate Sunday Mass at local parishes.

The worship services provided a chance to see the cardinals up close and hear them preach two days before they enter the conclave. Roman Catholics and others packed the churches, holding up cellphones to take photos and video.

The cardinals said Mass in their titular churches, the parishes that according to church tradition are assigned to them as clergy of Rome, creating a symbolic bond with the pope. The conclave, with 115 cardinal-electors, is scheduled to start Tuesday.

Associated Press