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North Korea Lashes Out at US in Nuclear Dispute - 2003-02-09


North Korea is again lashing out at the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is preparing to meet to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper says North Korea will act to protect its interests. The comment appeared Sunday, three days before the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors is to meet.

The newspaper says Washington is using the U.N. agency to put pressure on Pyongyang. North Korea has been demanding direct talks with the United States.

The IAEA governors are expected to refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions on North Korea for violating the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Pyongyang has already stated that it would view sanctions as a declaration of war. In recent official press comments, the Stalinist country has accused the United States of preparing to attack it.

The North Korean Central News Agency on Sunday said that the U.S. decision to beef up its military presence in the Pacific demonstrates that the United States plans to use force against North Korea. Echoing earlier comments, the news agency says doing so would escalate into a nuclear war.

President Bush on Friday said he wants to resolve the dispute over North Korea's nuclear program through diplomacy but added he could not rule out other options.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have increased since October, when the United States said North Korea had admitting having an illegal nuclear weapons program.

In December, North Korea expelled IAEA inspectors, withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and restarted operations at a nuclear plant that had been shut down since 1994. North Korea says it needs to restart the plant to provide badly needed electricity.

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