North Korea Threatens 'War' Over Satellite Shootdown SEOUL, South Korea North Korea ordered its armed forces on standby and warned Monday it will retaliate against anyone seeking to block its planned satellite launch, a launch many fear will disguise a missile test. The threat came hours before United States and South Korea kicked off annual war games involving tens of thousands of troops, which the communist nation has condemned as preparations for an invasion. The joint drills across South Korea began as concerns mounted that Pyongyang could be gearing up to test-fire a long-range missile capable of reaching U.S. territory. North Korea says it plans to launch a communications satellite, but neighboring governments believe it is a cover for a missile test. U.S. and Japanese officials have suggested they could shoot down a North Korean missile if necessary. "If the enemies recklessly opt for intercepting our satellite, our revolutionary armed forces will launch without hesitation a just retaliatory strike operation not only against all the interceptor means involved but against the strongholds" of the U.S., Japan and South Korea, the general staff of the North's military said in a statement. "Shooting our satellite for peaceful purposes will precisely mean a war," said the statement, carried by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency. The North's military ordered all personnel to "be fully combat ready" so that they could "deal merciless retaliatory blows" at the enemy, KCNA said in a separate dispatch. North Korea also said it would cut off a military hotline with the South during the 12-day exercises, leaving the sides without any means of communication amid heightened tensions.