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N. Korea says U.S. reneged on deal

©Associated Press

March 1, 2003

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea accused the United States on Friday of triggering a nuclear crisis by failing to provide promised energy, disrupting inter-Korean reconciliation and plotting war against the North.

At the same time, Pyongyang reiterated the only way to resolve the nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula was through direct talks with the United States. Washington says ties can improve only if North Korea abandons its nuclear ambitions.

"The situation is getting tenser with each passing day," the North said in a dispatch on its state-run news agency, KCNA. "The U.S. is entirely to blame for this."

Pyongyang said Washington had failed to follow through on a pledge to build two nuclear reactors in North Korea in exchange for the freezing of its nuclear facilities in a 1994 deal. Those facilities, which the energy-starved North is in the process of reactivating, are the center of its suspected weapons program.

In Seoul, South Korea's new government declared itself "in hot water" over the crisis with North Korea. It also confirmed U.S. intelligence reports that North Korea has reactivated a 5-megawatt nuclear reactor that could be used to make the raw material for nuclear weapons.

The reactivation followed a North Korean missile launch into the Sea of Japan and was apparently timed to coincide with Tuesday's power shift to a new South Korean government, led by President Roh Moo Hyun.

"Indeed, the new government is in hot water from the beginning," Unification Minister Jeong Se Hyun said on KBS Radio.

Jeong, who directs the South's policy of trying to engage the North, said Pyongyang's recent maneuvers also appeared aimed at forcing the United States into direct dialogue to sign a nonaggression treaty with the isolated communist regime. Pyongyang also seeks aid to revive its economy.

A separate North Korean statement on KCNA said a nonaggression treaty should be ratified by the North's Supreme People's Assembly and both houses of the U.S. Congress.

It said the North's proposal for reaching an agreement "is aimed to provide a legal binding force to control and prevent the U.S. from using nukes and posing a threat of military attack to it."

U.S. officials have ruled out a formal treaty, though they say some form of written security guarantee is possible. They also say the issue should be handled by the U.N. Security Council.

North Korea said the United States had blocked progress on the construction of inter-Korean railways and other projects, but acknowledged in a one-line statement the U.S. announcement this week that it would donate about 220,000 tons of food aid to the impoverished nation.

The North offered no thanks for the food, but some analysts said the acknowledgment could be an effort to improve ties with Washington.

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