- - Monday, April 23, 2012

PYONGYANG — North Korea promised Monday to reduce South Korea’s government “to ashes” in less than four minutes, in an unusually specific escalation of recent threats aimed at its southern rival.

The statement by North Korea’s military, carried by state media, came amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Both Koreas recently unveiled new missiles, and the North tried unsuccessfully to launch a long-range rocket earlier this month.

The growing animosity has prompted worries that North Korea may conduct a nuclear test - something it did after rocket launches in 2006 and 2009.

South Korean intelligence officials say recent satellite images show the North has been digging a new tunnel in what appears to be preparation for a third atomic test.

North Korea’s military said it would begin “special actions” soon against the South’s government and media companies that would “reduce all the ratlike groups and the bases for provocations to ashes in three or four minutes.”

UKRAINE

Opposition parties unite for election

KIEV — Ukraine’s two biggest pro-Western opposition parties announced Monday they will join forces in the fall parliamentary election to challenge President Viktor Yanukovych’s grip on power.

The parties led by jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former parliament speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk said they will work to reverse the democratic rollback that took place after Mr. Yanukovych came to power two years ago.

The alliance marks an attempt to break with years of infighting within the pro-Western camp that allowed the pro-Russian Mr. Yanukovych, whose fraud-tainted election victory was annulled in the 2004 Orange Revolution street protests, to make a comeback in the 2010 presidential election.

UNITED KINGDOM

Sky News latest target in hacking scandal

LONDON — Britain’s broadcast regulator announced Monday an investigation into email hacking by Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News, only minutes before the channel’s head of news acknowledged that his station had broken the law and misled a senior judge.

The investigation will center on “fairness and privacy issues” stemming from Sky News’ admission that it authorized journalists to hack into email accounts to score exclusives, said a spokesman for the independent regulator called Ofcom.

Earlier this month, Sky’s head of news, John Ryley, acknowledged that hacking had happened twice under his watch, a revelation that spread Britain’s phone-hacking scandal to a new branch of Mr. Murdoch’s media empire. Mr. Murdoch’s U.S. holdings include the Fox News Channel, which has not been implicated in any of the hacking scandals.

Lord Justice Brian Leveson is conducting a separate investigation into Britain’s media in the wake of the phone hacking scandal that erupted last year at Mr. Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid.

The scandal has spread to Mr. Murdoch’s the Sun, where many prominent journalists have been arrested on suspicion of bribery, and the Times of London, which is being sued over email hacking.

THE NETHERLANDS

Prime minister resigns after losing right-wing support

THE HAGUE — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte tendered his government’s resignation to Queen Beatrix on Monday after the collapse of a parliamentary partnership with a far-right party.

The resignation had been widely expected since the weekend, when Mr. Rutte acknowledged that his government’s rift with anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party would likely lead to early elections, otherwise due in May 2015.

Although not part of the ruling coalition, Mr. Wilders’ party effectively had guaranteed the government’s majority for the past 18 months by agreeing to support it in parliament.

YEMEN

Army, U.S. drone kill 23 al Qaeda fighters

SANAA — At least 23 suspected al Qaeda terrorists were killed over the weekend as the army battles for control of Yemen’s lawless southern and eastern regions, the defense ministry said Monday.

The army killed 13 militants near the city of Loder late on Sunday, a ministry official said.

At least three others died in an airstrike in a remote desert region in the eastern province of Marib.

Also on Sunday, a U.S. drone killed three more jihadists in the southern Shabwa province, witnesses said, while local sources said four others were killed when a Yemeni fighter plane fired on their vehicle in Loder.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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