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North Korea Pledges Tough Action If US Uses Force to End Nuclear Dispute - 2003-05-11

North Korea has launched another broadside, pledging tough action if the United States tries to use force to end a dispute over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. The latest comments come as South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun heads to Washington to discuss North Korea.

An official North Korea newspaper on Sunday warned of "an emergency measure" if the U.S. uses force to solve the nuclear standoff. The Rodong Sinmun paper did not specify the exact nature of the measure.

This latest verbal attack came as South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun left to attend a summit with President Bush in Washington on May 14.

He is expected to focus on bridging differences between South Korea and its main ally, the United States. In a statement before departing, President Roh said he would do his best to make the visit "a stepping stone" to peacefully ending North Korea's efforts to build nuclear weapons.

South Korea takes a conciliatory line toward its communist neighbor, while the Bush administration is much more critical. Mr. Roh insists the dispute must be resolved diplomatically and has said he would not approve any U.S. military action against the North. Washington also says it wants a peaceful solution, but does not rule out using force.

Mr. Roh also opposes any possible effort to impose sanctions on North Korea for having a nuclear weapons program in violation of several international accords.

The United States revealed the North's weapons program last October. Since then, Pyongyang has ratcheted up tensions on the Korean Peninsula by withdrawing from the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, expelling international nuclear inspectors and restarting idled facilities capable of producing fuel for nuclear bombs.

Last month, North Korea reportedly told the United States it has nuclear bombs during a meeting in Beijing. Pyongyang apparently demanded that Washington grant it economic aid and diplomatic recognition before it would give up the weapons.

On Saturday, North Korea lashed out after the South Korean defense minister put the South's military on higher alert because of fears of military action by Pyongyang. The North called the move "an act of treachery."