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North Korea Threatens to Withdraw From 1953 Armistice - 2003-02-19

The international dispute over North Korea’s suspected nuclear weapons program took a new turn Tuesday, as North Korea threatened to withdraw from the 1953 Armistice, which ended its war with South Korea. In a statement read on state-run television, officials accused the United States of staging a military build-up around the Korean Peninsula in preparation for an attack. The U.S. insists it has no intention of invading North Korea.

In Washington, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer accused Pyongyang of making empty threats.

“North Korea does have a history that they’ve repeated numerous times in numerous ways of using strident rhetoric as a way to blackmail other nations into providing economic or other benefits to the North Koreans. What the President has said is that that method of doing business will no longer be effective, and the President is going to continue to work through the diplomatic approach with China, Russia, South Korea and Japan.”

In Beijing, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said North Korea had only threatened a withdrawal if, in her words, certain parties took further actions against it. She emphasized, however, that the Korean Peninsula must remain nuclear-free.

Since October of last year, Washington and its allies have been putting pressure on the North to abandon any development of nuclear weapons. North Korea insists on direct talks with Washington, and a non-aggression treaty with the U.S.

The International Atomic Energy Agency recently found Pyongyang in violation of its commitments on nuclear programs and referred the matter to the United Nations Security Council.

The 1950-to-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, technically leaving the two countries in a state of war.

Nearly 2-million troops are deployed along the border, including 37,000 Americans. South Korean and U.S. officials said Tuesday they had seen no unusual troop movements by the North in the region.