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BBC NEWS (UK), UNITED STATES FORCES KOREA, YONHAP (South Korea), REUTERS

Worldcrunch

SEOUL - As tensions mount on the Korean peninsula, a U.S. helicopter crashed Tuesday near South Korea's border with the North while conducting routine flight operations. All 21 people aboard the helicopter survived.

The exact cause of the crash is not yet known, but the incident occurred during ongoing South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises.

A statement released by the United States Forces Korea described the crash of the Marine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter as a "hard landing" in Cheorwon county, which touches on the border with North Korea.

Sixteen of the passengers were American soldiers from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit based in Okanawa, Japan – the five others were crew members; 15 were released from hospital and six were hospitalized in stable condition.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that North Korea issued new threats against South Korea on Tuesday, vowing "sledge-hammer blows" of retaliation if South Korea did not apologize for anti-North Korean protests the previous day when the North was celebrating the 101st anniversary of the birth of its founding leader, Kim Il-Sung.

Tensions have been high on the Korean Peninsula since North Korea conducted a third nuclear test on February 12, which resulted in sanctions from the UN.

U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Washington on 7 May to discuss economic and security issues, BBC News reports. On Monday, speaking in Tokyo, Secretary of State John Kerry said that under certain conditions the United States would be "open to negotiations" with North Korea.

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