The Herald Sun
Sunday 23 March 2003
North Korea says the situation on the Korean Peninsula was deteriorating to the "brink of a nuclear war" because of US-South Korean war games.
And in its first official response to the war on Baghdad, North Korea called the military action in Iraq "a grave encroachment upon sovereignty".
It also accused the US of planning to attack North Korea after Iraq.
A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said the US-led war in Iraq should "compel (North Korea) to do all it can to defend itself".
North Korea criticised South Korea's decision to put its military on heightened alert as "an undisguised challenge and intolerable hostility".
South Korea said yesterday its military went on heightened alert to guard against possible North Korean moves to use the distraction of war in Iraq to increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
But it said the precautionary move did not involve significant troop movements.
"We cannot but express deep concern about the irrevocable adverse impact such reckless sabre-rattling going on in South Korea will have on peace on the Korean Peninsula and inter-Korean relations," said the Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, a government agency in charge of relations with South Korea.
But South Korea's Unification Ministry said the war in Iraq should not have a negative impact on inter-Korean relations.
"It is regrettable that North Korea doubts our determination on reconciliation and co-operation on the Korean Peninsula," the ministry said.
South Korean Defence 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 high-intensity military provocations" from the communist state.
Tensions have run high since October, when the United States said North Korea admitted having a secret nuclear program.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun sought to ease foreign investors' concerns over the tensions.
"There will not be a war, or any chaotic situation that resembles war" on the Korean Peninsula, Roh said in a meeting with foreign companies.
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