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March 24, 2003
 
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Report: N.Korea Boosts Defense in View of Iraq

Reuters


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March 24

MOSCOW (Reuters) - North Korea, locked in a standoff with Washington over its nuclear program, is boosting its own defenses in view of the U.S.-led drive into Iraq, the country's foreign ministry was quoted as saying on Monday.

A statement issued by North Korea's Moscow embassy and released by Interfax news agency said the Iraq campaign "undermined international order and put peace and security under serious threat in the Middle East and throughout the world."

"The U.S. use of force against Iraq, as well as military preparations by the United States and its satellites on the Korean peninsula, make it clear to us what we must do to prepare fully for justified self-defense," the statement said.

The statement gave no details on what measures Pyongyang's secretive communist authorities intended to adopt.

President Roh Moo-hyun of South Korea dismissed as groundless on Monday speculation that North Korea would be the next U.S. war target. South Korea has backed the U.S. campaign to disarm Iraq and topple President Saddam Hussein and endorsed a plan to send up to 700 non-combat troops to assist it.

President Bush, in his 2002 State of the Union address, placed North Korea, Iraq and Iran in an "axis of evil" of states holding and proliferating dangerous weapons.

Authorities in Pyongyang have made a number of moves which have boosted tension in Asia, including quitting the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and restarting nuclear facilities shut down under a 1994 treaty with Washington.

North Korea first reported on the drive into Iraq 24 hours after it was launched and predicted "disastrous consequences."

Pyongyang's latest statement said North Korea's government "says 'no' to war. Military activities violating the sovereign state's rights and human rights can in no way be justified."

It said unilateral demands for Iraq to disarm were a "blatant attack on that country's sovereignty."

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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