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US soldiers hacked to death by N. Korean guards remembered

Lee Jin-Man / AP

Two South Korean soldiers salute after laying wreaths in memory of two U.S. soldiers hacked to death with axes by North Korean border guards on Aug. 18, 1976.

U.S. and South Korean soldiers laid wreaths Saturday in memory of two American Army officers who were hacked to death with axes by North Korean border guards in 1976.

Captain Arthur Bonifas and Lieutenant Mark Barrett were killed on Aug. 18 of that year in the border village of Panmunjom within the demilitarized zone. Bonifas was packed and ready to go back to his wife and children when he was killed, according to Stars and Stripes.

As the slain men were honored, it emerged that the current North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, visited frontline troops to remind them of their duty to fight a “sacred war” against any provocation by the South, Reuters reported.

State news agency KCNA said Kim, who came to power in December 2011 after the death of his father, visited the same artillery unit that launched a deadly attack on South Korea's Yeonpyeong island near the western sea border two years ago.

Lee Jin-Man / AP

U.S. soldiers lay wreaths during the memorial ceremony Saturday.

Kim inspected the unit on Mu island, which KCNA said was "stationed in the biggest hotspot in the southernmost part of the southwest front," according to Reuters. The report was released on Friday and was monitored in the South on Saturday.

"He ordered the servicepersons ... not to miss their golden chance to deal at once deadly counter-blows at the enemy if even a single shell is dropped on the waters or in the area where the sovereignty of the DPRK is exercised," KCNA said of Kim's guidance to his Democratic People's Republic of Korea troops.

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Kim also said the Korean People's Army should then "lead the battle to a sacred war for national reunification, not confining it to a local war on the southwest region", KCNA reported.

He also observed that Yeonpyeong island was "clearly visible" from the post on Mu island, according to KCNA. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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