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N. Korea Accuses US of 'Criminal Policy' - 2003-01-08

North Korea says the United States is pushing the Korean Peninsula toward nuclear war. This strident message comes as South Korea welcomes Washington's offer to hold discussions with Pyongyang to end the current dispute over the North's nuclear ambitions.

Pyongyang has ignored the call for talks from Washington and its allies. Instead, on Wednesday, North Korea's state-run media said there is an increasing danger of nuclear war on the peninsula caused by what it described as the United States' "criminal policy" toward the North. Pyongyang called on Koreans from both sides of the border to join together to resist "U.S. designs."

Pyongyang frequently issues dire warnings of a possible conflict on the peninsula, partly in a bid to divide South Korea from its close ally, the United States. Seoul, however, says it hopes Washington's decision to engage in dialogue will help convince Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programs, including those that could create weapons.

A spokesman for South Korea's Foreign Ministry says the communist state should reconsider its defiant position and resolve tensions over its nuclear program.

After two days of discussions in Washington with Japanese and South Korean diplomats, the United States Tuesday said it is willing to talk with Pyongyang. Washington, however, will not offer new concessions to North Korea to make it abandon its nuclear programs.

Japan Wednesday welcomed the decision reached in Washington. Japanese government spokesman Yasuo Fukuda says that with a common understanding about how North Korea should live up to its obligations and return to the international community, Japan will continue to hold various discussions with Pyongyang.

Last month, North Korea began reactivating nuclear operations previously frozen under an agreement with Washington. This comes after Washington and its allies cut fuel aid to the country because it admitted to the United States it had a banned program to create nuclear weapons.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is giving Pyongyang a final chance to honor its commitments under a nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The U.N. watchdog warned it could refer the matter to the Security Council if North Korea fails to live up to its obligations.