North Korea says it wants and needs nuclear weapons in order to reduce the size of its huge conventional forces, but has no intention of blackmailing any other nation. Brian Purchia has the latest.
North Korea's official news agency says what it calls the United States' hostile policy toward the North is responsible for Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.
If North Korea can acquire a nuclear deterrent, the news agency says its government can devote more resources to economic development, a critical need in the impoverished country.
Monday's commentary marks the first time North Korea has linked its nuclear program to cutting conventional forces. North Korea has one of the largest armed forces in the world, with more than a million troops, many of them deployed near the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean peninsula.
In Tokyo, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun expressed concern to the Japanese parliament about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT ROH MOO-HYUN
"We will never tolerate North Korea possessing nuclear weapons. At the same time, I believe that this problem must be resolved peacefully through dialogue."
The South Korean leader was speaking on the final day of a four-day visit to Japan, during which he and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi agreed they would seek a peaceful solution to the North Korean crisis.
The Pyongyang government has charged repeatedly in recent weeks that it is the target of a U.S. plan for a military invasion. The United States has denied all those allegations and said it has no intention of attacking North Korea.
Tensions in the region have been high since October, when the United States said that North Korea had disclosed it was moving forward on nuclear-weapons development, in violation of a 1994 agreement.