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North Korea Warns US on Economic Sanctions - 2003-01-07

North Korea is accusing the United States of pushing for economic sanctions to isolate the communist nation in a dispute over its nuclear program. Pyongyang warns that such a strategy would represent a declaration of war.

As high-ranking diplomats from South Korea, Japan and the United States meet in Washington discuss ways to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis, Pyongyang is again lashing out at the United States.

The official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday that Washington has embarked on a plan to use economic sanctions against the North. It warns that imposing sanctions would be tantamount to declaring war, for which Washington would pay a high price.

Some Bush Administration officials have raised sanctions as part of a strategy to push the North into abandoning its nuclear ambitions, but it has not been put into action.

The KCNA report also complained about the United States' seizure last month of a shipload of North Korean missiles bound for Yemen. It cited that act as another example of an American strategy to stifle and threaten the impoverished Stalinist state.

Monday, the North said American plans for a missile defense system showed American intent to solve the nuclear issue with force rather than by peaceful means.

The North says these actions justify any move it takes to reactivate its nuclear power program, produce missiles or even possess nuclear weapons.

The latest North Korean allegations come one day after the International Atomic Energy Agency gave Pyongyang one more chance to readmit U.N. nuclear inspectors before it turns the matter over to the U.N. Security Council for possible action, which could include sanctions or a military response.

The North kicked out the U.N. monitors in December after it began reactivating its main Yongbyon nuclear complex capable of producing plutonium for weapons, in violation of several international accords.

North Korea's neighbors were quick to offer support for the IAEA. Japanese government spokesman Yasuo Fukuda said North Korea needs to take the resolution seriously and urges it to stop its nuclear programs.

A statement from South Korea's Foreign Ministry says the IAEA is sending a clear and consistent message from the international community that North Korea's nuclear weapons development cannot be condoned.

China, the North's last major ally, offered a more muted response at a news conference Tuesday, where Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said Beijing hopes the issue will be settled through dialogue. But she repeated China's position that it wants a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.