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N. Korea Blames US for Increased Tensions - 2002-12-29

North Korea blames the United States for increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and vows to resist pressure to give up its nuclear programs. Pyongyang also says it hopes to settle the dispute peacefully.

North Korean state media accuse the United States of interfering in rapprochement efforts with South Korea.

Commentaries in the North's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper and on its Korean Central News Agency also say Pyongyang hopes to settle the nuclear dispute "in a peaceful way." The reports blame the United States for escalating tensions.

The statements Saturday and Sunday come as International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors prepare to leave North Korea, after receiving an expulsion order. North Korea recently began reopening nuclear facilities that had been shut down and were being monitored by the IAEA.

North Korea says it is reopening the facilities to generate electricity because Washington and its allies have cut off fuel shipments to the country.

The United States revealed in October that North Korea admitted having a nuclear program, violating a 1994 agreement. Under the accord, Pyongyang pledged to shut down its nuclear facilities, which were capable of producing weapons. In return, the United States and its allies were to send it fuel oil, and build two safer nuclear power plants.

Also Sunday, North Korean media report that 10,000 North Koreans rallied in the capital to protest U.S. pressure to shut down the country's nuclear programs. The demonstrators also called on South Koreans to join them in resisting what it called U.S. meddling in Korean affairs.

In Tokyo, Japanese government officials say Japan and Russia will pledge to seek a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula in talks next week in Moscow between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

North Korea has said it would address U.S. concerns, if Washington signs a non-aggression pact. But the Bush administration has ruled out talks, unless Pyongyang first gives up its nuclear program.