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North Korea Claims US Threat as Reason for Weapons Program - 2002-11-01

North Korea's ambassador to China has repeated his government's assertion it is entitled to have any weapons it wants, including nuclear weapons, because it feels threatened by the United States. The ambassador once again urged Washington to sign a non-aggression pact.

North Korean Ambassador Choe Jin Su reiterates a North Korean charge that the United States has been threatening Pyongyang with nuclear attack. "That is why we said to the U.S. envoy, Mr. Kelly, that we as a small country are entitled to have any kind of weapon that is more powerful than a nuclear weapon to defend our sovereignty," he said.

The top U.S. diplomat for Asia, James Kelly said last month that North Korea admitted it was working to enrich uranium for use in nuclear weapons.

The United States and its allies have been pushing Pyongyang to abandon the weapons program which violates several international agreements.

Speaking at a news conference Friday in Beijing, Ambassador Choe says the United States is "illogical" in saying North Korea should not have nuclear weapons.

He repeated North Korea's offer to solve the tensions between Pyongyang and Washington with a new accord. "We made it very clear that if the United States, through the conclusion of a non-aggression treaty and guarantee our sovereignty and right to subsistence, than we are also ready to remove U.S. concerns on security," Ambassador Choe said. But the ambassador also said if the United States tries to crush North Korea with "toughness," than the Koreans will respond with "super-toughness."

Mr. Choe did not say specifically that North Korea has a nuclear weapons program, but he did not deny the U.S. allegations.

North Korea appears to be starting a diplomatic offensive of its own to resist international pressure over its weapons program. Pyongyang's diplomats overseas rarely make public statements. Thursday, a North Korean diplomat in Russia made a similar statement, and North Korean media have repeatedly blamed the United States for the dispute and called for a non-aggression pact.

The reports of North Korea's weapons program come after months in which Pyongyang had been reaching out to the rest of the world. In the past two months alone, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il held a summit with the Japanese prime minister, and Pyongyang resumed a series of reconciliation projects with its rival, South Korea.