North Korea warns of nuclear disasters
Date: Sunday, February 09 2003
Topic: Canadian Politics
SEOUL (AP) - North Korea warned Friday that reported U.S. moves to dispatch reinforcements around the Korean peninsula could lead to "horrible nuclear disasters" while Washington said it was preparing for any contingencies.
For days, North Korea has appeared to be creating an atmosphere of crisis, accusing the United States of deploying reinforcements in the region to invade the impoverished country. U.S. officials say any discussions of troop movements would be meant to deter North Korea, not to foreshadow an invasion.
Still, North Korea fears that Washington will become more aggressive toward the communist country if the U.S. military conducts a successful war in Iraq.
"If the U.S. moves to bolster aggression troops are unchecked, the whole land of Korea will be reduced to ashes and the Koreans will not escape horrible nuclear disasters," North Korea's official news agency, KCNA, said Friday.
U.S. President George W. Bush said he called Chinese President Jiang Zemin Friday morning and "reminded him that we have a joint responsibility to uphold the goal ... of a nuclear weapons-free (Korean) peninsula."
Bush repeated that he believed the situation on Korea can still be resolved peacefully but notably ratcheted up the U.S. position by raising the suggestion of the use of a military strike.
"We will continue to work diplomatically to make it very clear to Kim Jong Il that should he expect any kind of aid and help for his people that he must comply with the world's demands that he not develop a nuclear weapon," Bush said.
However, he added. "All options are on the table of course."
By citing "all options," Bush was reminding North Korea that the United States has not ruled out the use of military force.
U.S. officials have spoken before about their ability to respond to any potential hostile action by North Korea, in part to dispel any hopes Pyongyang may have about taking advantage of Bush's focus on Iraq.
North Korea's statement Friday was issued by the Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, a government agency in charge of relations with South Korea.
In line with the North's long-standing strategy to drive a wedge between the United States and ally South Korea, the statement urged the South Koreans to frustrate alleged U.S. plans for a military buildup. It indicated that if war breaks out, the South would not escape devastation either.
"The grave situation where there is the real danger of a new war created by the U.S. imperialists on the Korean peninsula goes to more clearly prove that there exists on the peninsula only confrontation between the Korean nation and the United States," it said.
Concern about North Korea's nuclear program has grown after the country announced earlier this week that it was normalizing operations at its main nuclear facility north of Pyongyang, triggering fears it was about to produce materials of weapons.
North Korean soldiers are holding rallies at their bases, vowing to wage "a life-and-death battle" against the U.S. "imperialists," KCNA said Friday.
The report repeated Pyongyang's position that the nuclear issue can be resolved only through direct negotiations with the United States. It rejected a multilateral approach to the dispute.
North Korea announced in December it would reactivate its nuclear facilities, frozen since 1994, to generate badly needed electricity.
U.S. officials say the amount of electricity that can be generated by the North's facilities is negligible and that the equipment could used to produce nuclear weapons.
The North froze its nuclear facilities in a 1994 energy deal with the United States, but the agreement unravelled after U.S. officials said in October that North Korea had admitted embarking on a second, clandestine nuclear program.
Washington and its allies suspended oil shipments as punishment. The North then took steps to restart the nuclear facilities, expelled UN monitors and withdrew from a global nuclear arms control treaty.
The UN International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-country board of governors will meet next Wednesday to discuss the standoff and is almost certain to send the dispute to the UN Security Council, a move that could lead to economic sanctions against Pyongyang.
Also Friday, in an interview with reporters travelling with him in Europe, U.S. Defence Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said North Korea's decision to expel UN nuclear inspectors and restart its mothballed nuclear reactor is an example of how international safeguards "seem not to be working now" to prevent nuclear materials and knowhow from spreading to dangerous governments and terrorists.