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N. Korea Continues with Threats

North Korea renewed its threats to South Korea, saying Seoul risks "unimaginable disaster" for confronting Pyongyang. The comments follow recent statements from Seoul that it is firmly allied with Washington in the dispute over the North's nuclear weapons programs.

The North Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland accuses Seoul of bringing the Korean Peninsula close to war. The statement threatens the South with "unimaginable disaster" if it confronts the communist North.

The comment Monday echoes one last week, when Pyongyang said South Korean faced "unspeakable disaster" because of its continued alliance with the United States. The latest statement also comes despite Seoul's pledge last week to send 400,000 tons of food aid to the impoverished North.

Monday's warning follows last week's summit between President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, at which they warned North Korea that any escalation of tensions would prompt "tougher measures." Earlier this month, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and President Bush also issued a similar statement. At their talks earlier this month, Mr. Bush and Mr. Roh agreed that a nuclear-armed North Korea could not be tolerated.

Professor Chun Hong-chan of Pusan University says this latest North Korean rhetoric results from a perception in Pyongyang that Seoul and Tokyo have signed on to the Bush administration's goal of isolating North Korea if it does not abandon its nuclear goals. "It seems that the United States is upgrading the pressure system surrounding North Korea. I think President Bush has made a major breakthrough with President Roh Moo-hyun who has been reluctant in confronting North Korea directly," says Mr. Chun. "President Roh Moo-hyun changed his attitude quite a bit in Washington."

Professor Chun says he is not overly concerned about the latest threats from the North, because the verbal attacks are the only weapons Pyongyang can actually use.

North Korea and the United States held talks last month in Beijing with Chinese officials present. After that meeting, U.S. officials said North Korea claimed it had nuclear arms, but would be willing to give up its weapons programs in exchange for economic aid and security guarantees from the United States.

Tensions flared last October when U.S. officials said North Korea had admitted having a clandestine nuclear program in violation of several international agreements.