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North Korea Lashes Out at US Missile Defense System - 2003-01-06


North Korea has lashed out at the United States for developing a missile defense system it says shows intent to attack the Asian nation. North Korea has repeatedly said it feels threatened by Washington and says that gives it the right to have nuclear weapons, despite its non-proliferation pledges.

North Korea slammed Washington Monday, again accusing the United States of planning to launch a military strike against the hardline communist state. It says the United States wants to use force to resolve the current crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons development.

An official Korean Central News Agency statement says Washington's planned missile defense system is part of a cunning trick to justify a U.S. attack.

The United States has been working on missile defense for more than a decade to destroy any incoming ballistic missiles fired at the United States. President Bush last month authorized the U.S. military to begin deploying the system from 2004.

The system is primarily being designed to defend the American soil from small-scale attacks by North Korea, Iran, and what it calls other rogue states with developing missile capabilities and chemical and nuclear weapons programs.

Monday's latest North Korean accusations come on the same day the United States, South Korea and Japan open a high level, two-day meeting in Washington on resolving the North Korea nuclear issue.

In December, the North began reactivating a nuclear complex frozen under a 1994 agreement with the United States. It is believed to be capable of producing plutonium for nuclear bombs.

Pyongyang has also expelled inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. Both moves come in response to a U.S.-led decision to stop oil shipments to the North after evidence Pyongyang was committing other nuclear violations.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Monday urged the North to adhere to the nuclear commitments it made to Japan last year as well as the international community. He said Japan will continue to try to persuade the North that abandoning it nuclear program will be beneficial.

Washington and its allies have underscored their commitment to settling this issue with diplomatic means. China and Russia, with closer ties to North Korea, have been consulted to use their influence.

Meanwhile, also on Monday, the U.S. military commander in South Korea flagged another security concern related to North Korea. General Leon La Porte said North Korean military officials refused to discuss armistice violations at a December 30 meeting with the U.S.-led United Nations Command, which oversees security of the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea since 1953.

South Korea and the U.N. Command say that North Korean troops repeatedly brought light machine guns into the DMZ last month, even though truce rules only allow small arms and rifles into the area.

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