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NAM Leaders Express Concern over N. Korea Missile Test - 2003-02-25

Leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement are expressing concern over North Korea's test-firing of a missile - amid growing tensions over its nuclear programs. North Korea's number two-leader is assuring the summit his government has only peaceful intentions.

On the last day of the Non-Aligned Summit, some delegates are expressing dismay that North Korea fired a land-to-ship missile over the Sea of Japan. Officials here have been struggling with how to deal with concerns over North Korea's reactivated nuclear programs - which violate several international accords.

Summit organizers say a draft resolution on North Korea was only reached after lengthy negotiations and compromise. The document calls for a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue. But it does not mention concern over North Korea withdrawing from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Nor does it assign blame for the crisis.

North Korea's second-ranking leader, Supreme Assembly President Kim Yong Nam, told delegates Tuesday his country's nuclear activities would be confined to peaceful purposes, at this stage. Mr. Kim says the military-centered policy is important to protect the North Korean economy in the face of what he calls threats by the United States.

In the last few months, North Korea has caused alarm in the international community by reactivating banned nuclear facilities and expelling United Nations monitors.

North Korea blames the United States for sparking the dispute by accusing Pyongyang in October of having a covert nuclear weapons program. North Korea denies the allegation and says all its actions are to protect itself from a hostile United States.

After months of diplomacy failed to convince North Korea to keep its nuclear-free commitments, Washington says it is considering all options to keep North Korea from possessing nuclear weapons. The United States' Asian allies, however, are calling on Washington to agree to North Korea's demand for direct bilateral talks on the dispute.

U.S. officials agree that diplomacy is the preferred course - but say it should involve other nations since North Korea's nuclear ambitions are a global threat - not just a security concern for the United States.