Guardian Unlimited
Login
Go to:  
Guardian UnlimitedWorld Latest
Home UK Business Online World dispatch The wrap Weblog Talk Search
The Guardian World News guide Arts Special reports Columnists Audio Help Quiz

Breaking news International

Bush to Warn of Potentially Long Conflict
10:30 am

Residents of War, W.Va., Consider Iraq
10:30 am

First Relief Convoy Sets Out for Iraq
10:30 am

Troops March Within 50 Miles of Baghdad
10:20 am

War's Popularity Wanes but Resolve Strong
10:20 am

Ex-Bosnian Ambassador Arrested in U.S.
10:10 am

Iraq Embassy Trial Goes Ahead in Germany
10:10 am

Hindu Nationalist Shot to Death in India
10:10 am

U.S. Forces Ready for Push to Baghdad
10:10 am

British Forces Battle Iraqis at Basra
10:00 am

From the Associated Press





UP

N. Korea Cuts Off U.N. Command Contact


Wednesday March 26, 2003 9:30 AM

PANMUNJOM, Korea (AP) - Claiming the United States may attack, North Korea on Wednesday cut off the only regular military contact with the U.S.-led U.N. Command that monitors the Korean War armistice.

The move will further isolate the communist North amid tensions over its suspected nuclear weapons programs.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on Wednesday dismissed as ``groundless'' allegations by the North that American forces may attack.

``There will be no war on the Korean Peninsula as long as we do not want a war,'' Roh was quoted as saying by his office, adding that Washington has repeatedly pledged to resolve the crisis peacefully

Meanwhile, U.N. envoy Maurice Strong said that North Korean officials told him in meetings in Pyongyang last week that they ``reserved the right'' to reprocess their spent fuel rods that experts say could yield enough plutonium for several atomic bombs within months. Such a move would spike tension even further.

North's Korea People's Army sent a telephone message to the U.N. Command saying it will no longer send its delegates to the liaison-officers' meeting at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom.

``It is meaningless to sit together with the U.S. forces side to discuss any issue as long as it remains arrogant,'' the North's official news agency KCNA quoted the North Korean message as saying.

North Korea claimed again Tuesday the United States may attack the communist state after the war in Iraq and spark a ``second Iraqi crisis.'' It pledged to beef up its defenses.

The U.N. Command, which has monitored the armistice since the end of the 1950-53 war, had no immediate comment. Without a peace treaty, the Korean Peninsula is still technically at a state of war.

U.S. officials representing the U.N. Command have met North Korean officers at Panmunjom almost weekly since the end of the war.

In Japan, space agency officials were preparing to launch their first spy satellites into orbit on Friday. North Korea has condemned the move, prompting fears it may retaliate and test-fire a long-range missile.

Meanwhile, North Korean lawmakers convened the country's rubber-stamp parliament. The 687-member Supreme People's Assembly usually meets once or twice a year to approve a new budget and discuss policies for the year ahead.

North Korea's Central Radio reported that the parliamentary session opened with deputies paying tribute to the statues of leader Kim Jong Il and his father, late President Kim Il Sung, vowing to remain loyal to the totalitarian regime.

North Korea accuses Washington of inciting a dispute over its alleged programs to develop nuclear weapons to create an excuse for invasion. President Bush has branded the North part of an ``axis of evil'' with Iraq and Iran.

Washington says it seeks a diplomatic solution to the crisis - but Bush has said that if diplomacy fails a military solution may be considered.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan left Wednesday for Washington to discuss North Korea with Secretary of State Colin Powell and other U.S. officials.

During his four-day visit, Yoon also hopes to arrange a summit in the United States between presidents Roh and Bush, which he said would take place in late April at the earliest.

With the United States focused on Iraq, experts fear North Korea might use the opportunity to reprocess spent nuclear fuel to make atomic bombs.

The standoff flared in October when U.S. officials said Pyongyang admitted having a secret nuclear program in violation of a 1994 pact.

Washington and its allies suspended oil shipments, promised under that agreement, and Pyongyang retaliated by withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and taking steps to reactivate a nuclear facility capable of producing several bombs within months.

Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003