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World - AP Asia
N. Korea Criticizes U.S.-Led War on Iraq
13 minutes ago

By SOO-JEONG LEE, Associated Press Writer

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea (news - web sites) condemned the U.S.-led war on Iraq (news - web sites) on Friday and said American war games in South Korea (news - web sites) were pushing the divided peninsula "to the brink of a nuclear war."

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North Korea's first official response to the Iraq war came after South Korea put its military on heightened alert, worried North Korea might use the distraction of Iraq to raise tensions on the peninsula.

"The violation of Iraq's sovereignty already started with demanding disarmament by inspection and gradually led to war," a spokesman at North Korea's Foreign Ministry told KCNA, the communist state's foreign news outlet.

KCNA said the United States was conducting military exercises in South Korea to test its capabilities of fighting two wars simultaneously displaying what the North called a "strategy to dominate the world."

The United States, which has 37,000 troops based in South Korea, regularly conducts military exercises. One will end March 26, and a second, monthlong exercise is scheduled to end April 2.

North Korea said the United States was conducting the exercises to "fix the zero hour of its pre-emptive attack on (the North), driving the military situation in Korea to the brink of a nuclear war."

The spokesman told KCNA the U.S.-led war in Iraq compels North Korea "to do all it can to defend itself."

Separately, the North criticized the South's decision to raise its military alert. South Korea said the move was precautionary and did not involve significant troop movements.

"It is regrettable that North Korea doubts our determination on reconciliation and cooperation on the Korean Peninsula," South Korea's Unification Ministry said.

South Korean Defense Minister Cho Young-kil said North Korea was conducting air raid drills across the country to heighten vigilance. But he said he saw little chance of military provocation from the North.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun sought to ease concerns at a meeting with foreign investors in Seoul, saying he was determined there would be no war on the peninsula "under any circumstances."

Tensions have escalated on the peninsula since October, when the United States said North Korea had admitted to having a secret nuclear program. The United States has repeatedly said it has no plans to attack North Korea.

The Koreas were divided in 1945 and their border remains tightly sealed.


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Next Story: Putin: Iraq War Could Destabilize Region  (AP)

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