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North Korea Increases Military Spending Amid Nuclear Standoff

North Korea increased military spending more than planned this year because of rising tensions over its development of nuclear weapons. The communist nation also is sending signals that it will not make concessions to resolve a 15-month-old nuclear standoff.

North Korea says the deadlock over its nuclear ambitions prompted it to spend more on defense in 2003 than it had originally budgeted.

North Korean Deputy Prime Minister Ro Tu Chol said through the official Korean Central News Agency that his nation spent half-a-percent more than planned.

Pyongyang said in March that it had allotted 15.4 percent of its budget to the military but did not announce the total dollar amount.

Mr. Ro said the additional funding helped North Korea produce modern weapons needed to block the United States' efforts to dismantle Pyongyang's "nuclear deterrent."

He also said his nation's defense industry had been reinforced to manufacture "offensive and defensive" weapons.

The news of the increased spending comes a day after the United States pledged an additional 60,000 tons of food aid to the impoverished Stalinist state. The donation was in response to a United Nations request for more aid for North Korea, which has depended on foreign help to feed its people since the mid-1990's.

Mr. Ro also indicated that Pyongyang is unwilling to back away from its demands for a security guarantee and economic aid from the United States to end the dispute over its nuclear efforts. He said his country would continue to increase its nuclear deterrent "no matter what others say."

Washington insists that Pyongyang irreversibly and verifiably abandon its nuclear weapons program.

The United States, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan are trying to convince North Korea to join new talks on the dispute soon. A first round of multilateral talks in August ended without resolution.

Intense diplomatic efforts to arrange a second round of talks this month failed because of deep differences between Washington and Pyongyang.

The crisis over North Korea's nuclear arsenal started 15 months ago, when the United States said Pyongyang had admitted having a nuclear weapons program in violation of international agreements.

Pyongyang has since claimed it has started making more nuclear warheads, in addition to the one or two Washington believes it already has.