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N. Korea may end armistice

©Associated Press
February 18, 2003

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea threatened today to abandon the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, accusing the United States of plotting an attack on the communist state.

A spokesman of the North's Korean People's Army said that the United States was building up reinforcements around the Korean Peninsula in preparations to attack the North, said the North's official news agency KCNA.

"The situation is, therefore, getting more serious as the days go by as it is putting its plan for pre-emptive attacks on the (North) into practice," KCNA quoted the unidentified spokesman as saying.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the countries technically in a state of war. A North Korean withdrawal from the armistice would remove the main mechanism that is helping to keep an uneasy peace on the peninsula, where the border between the two Koreas is the world's most heavily armed.

The announcement is the latest move in a crisis over the North's recent decision to restart its nuclear programs in violation of international treaties.

Washington and its allies are pressuring North Korea to abandon its suspected nuclear weapon programs. The North has insisted on direct talks first with the United States, from which it wants a nonaggression treaty.

The North threat followed by a day a declaration by the communist state that it would triumph in the nuclear standoff.

That bluster came as South Korea's outgoing president, Kim Dae Jung, warned that Pyongyang's production of atomic weapons could force his country and Japan to build nuclear bombs as well.

The North Korean spokesman said the "grave situation created by the undisguised war acts committed by the U.S. in breach of the armistice agreement compels the Korean People's Army side, its warring party, to immediately take all steps to cope with it."

"If the U.S. side continues violating and misusing the armistice agreement as it pleases, there will be no need for the (North) to remain bound to the armistice agreement uncomfortably," the spokesman said.

North Korea had previously threatened to pull out of the armistice in an attempt to increase tension with the United States and force Washington to start negotiations with the Stalinist regime.

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