Friday, March 19, 2004
North Korea threatens to increase nuclear deterrent in 'quality and quantity'
SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea threatened Friday to increase its nuclear deterrent force in "quality and quantity'' if the United States continues its "increased military threat.''"The increased military threat the U.S. poses to the DPRK, whiling away time with lip-service to 'dialogue,' will only compel it to increase its nuclear deterrent force both in quality and quantity as a corresponding measure,'' North Korea's official KCNA news agency reported citing a Foreign Ministry spokesman. "No one can take issue with this measure for self-defense,'' the report said. Earlier in the day, North Korea said joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises were increasing the danger of war on the Korean Peninsula and could derail international efforts to call a new round of six-nation talks on its nuclear weapons programs. In a subsequent flurry of official dispatches condemning the United States, the isolated communist nation also said it needed a strong defense to guard against U.S. attack and termed the U.S. government the "world's biggest gangster.'' Such outbursts are not uncommon from North Korea's official media, but tend to flare at times of tension. The United States and South Korea are scheduled to kick off annual joint military exercises on Sunday to test the allies' defense readiness, amid a regional nuclear standoff and political uncertainty in South Korea following last week's parliamentary impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun. "Such serious military moves of the U.S. forces in South Korea suggest that the day of the outbreak of a war is drawing near hour by hour in Korea,'' said KCNA, Pyongyang's official news agency. Washington and Seoul have said the annual drills are defense exercises. North Korea has denounced previous exercises as preparations by the United States to invade the North. In a separate commentary carried by KCNA, Pyongyang's main state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun said the United States "seeks to stage a test war reminiscent of a full-scale war aimed to invade the DPRK by force and launch an all-out war on the Korean peninsula so as to exterminate the Korean nation.'' "If the six-way talks are to be continued, an atmosphere favorable for them should be created before anything else,'' Rodong said. "The U.S. should not dare test the patience, will and strength of the DPRK.'' DPRK stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the communist state's official name. A second round of six-nation talks - held between the United States, the two Koreas, China, Russia and Japan - ended in Beijing last month without much progress. But the participants agreed to try meeting again before July. - AP