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North Korea Threatens U.S. With War

WTKR | October 11, 2006

Tensions rose along the Korean Peninsula Wednesday as North Korea warned of physical retaliation for increased U.S. pressure over its reported atomic test, and South Korea discussed preparations for a nuclear attack that could include an expanded conventional arsenal.

North Korea said in its first formal statement since the test that it could respond to U.S. pressure with "physical" measures.

"If the U.S. keeps pestering us and increases pressure, we will regard it as a declaration of war and will take a series of physical corresponding measures," the North's Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The statement didn't specify what those measures could be.

North Korea's No. 2 leader threatened in an interview with a Japanese news agency that there would also be more nuclear tests if the United States continued its "hostile attitude."

Unfazed by North Korea's latest statements, Japan imposed unilateral sanctions Wednesday.

Tokyo put in place a total ban on imports from the impoverished nation and prohibited its ships from entering Japanese ports.

The sanctions, which also expand restrictions on North Korean nationals entering Japan, were announced following an emergency security meeting headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Cabinet Office spokesman Hiroshi Suzuki said before the meeting that any sanctions approved could take effect immediately.

"Sanctions are nonsense," said one North Korean official earlier in the day of the multilateral punitive measures the United Nations is considering in reaction to Monday's alleged nuclear weapons test.

"If full-scale sanctions take place, we will regard it as a declaration of war."

The North already is under limited sanctions imposed by the United States and some allies. The U.N. Security Council is considering broader measures in response to North Korea's claimed nuclear test Monday.

Wednesday morning's rhetoric increased tension as the U.N. prepared to vote, with China now backing 'some' punitive action against the North.

The Bush administration has asked the U.N. Security Council to impose a partial trade embargo including strict limits on Korea's profitable weapons exports and freezing of related financial assets. All imports would be inspected too, to filter out materials that could be made into nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters Tuesday that the council must give a "firm, constructive, appropriate but prudent response" to North Korea.

"I think there has to be some punitive actions but also I think these actions have to be appropriate," he said.

The comments signal a hardening of the stance taken by China, which is viewed as having the greatest outside leverage on North Korea, in part because it is a provider of economic and energy aid.

"With both North Korea and Iran on Wednesday's U.N. agenda, the ability of the Security Council to pressure both nations to get back to negotiations and halt their nuclear programs is being seen as a test of the U.N. to keep a nuclear weapons race from spiraling out of control," says CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk.

Diplomats said Tuesday there is a general agreement that the Security Council must pass a sanctions resolution in the next few days. The council's image suffered badly the last time it deadlocked over a major crisis, over the summer when it needed a month to pass a resolution on ending the war between Israel and Hezbollah.

"All I can say is that we are having a very good discussion, trying to identify what really we are going to be able to achieve, and I think there is general understanding also about the need to get our act together, and fast," Japan's U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima said. "On that we agree."

The United States reiterated that it would not talk with the North Koreans one-on-one, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice assured the North that the United States would not attack.

Rice said, in an interview with CBS Evening News Anchor Katie Couric, that the Bush administration opposes one-on-one talks with North Korea because that situation would be too advantageous to Pyongyang.

The Secretary of State said bilateral talks would give North Korea the ability to bring all the pressure to bear on the U.S. to produce a solution, whereas in the six-nation talks, including North Korea's neighbors, Pyongyang is subject to pressure from all the participants to back away from its nuclear program.

In an excerpt of the Kyodo interview, Kim said North Korea was ready to return to the six-party talks - if existing sanctions were lifted.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, meanwhile, says North Korea's claims of being under threat are exaggerated.

"North Korea says the reason it is pursuing nuclear (weapons) is for its security, but the security threat North Korea speaks of either does not exist in reality, or is very exaggerated," said Roh, according to Yonhap News.

Rice separately rejected a suggestion that Pyongyang may feel it needs nuclear weapons to stave off an Iraq-style U.S. invasion. President Bush, Rice told CNN, has told "the North Koreans that there is no intention to invade or attack them. So they have that guarantee... I don't know what more they want."

David Albright, an expert on North Korea's nuclear program, says North Korean leaders believe acquiring nuclear missiles can convince the United States the cost of attacking them is too high.

"They need to be able to convince the United States that if there is a military strike against nuclear facilities in North Korea, they can, in essence, nuke U.S. military assets in Japan," Albright told CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.

 

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