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Sunday, October 08, 2006


NK: U.S. gearing up for 'war of aggression'

(CNN) -- North Korea's official news agency reported that the United States is conducting a "reorganization" of its forces in South Korea in preparation for a "war of aggression" just days after North Korea announced that it would test a nuclear weapon.

The report on Saturday came from a spokesman for North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

"The 'reduction' and 'reorganization' of troops in South Korea being carried out by the United States are prompted by its sinister design to accelerate arms buildup and war preparations in the Korean peninsula by reorganizing the forces into a task force and use South Korea as a shock force in carrying out a new war," KCNA reported.

"Due to such moves, the situation is getting tenser and the danger of a nuclear war is further increasing on the Korean Peninsula as the days go by," the report said.

There had been speculation that the hard-line communist regime could conduct a nuclear test as early as Sunday, the anniversary of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's appointment as head of the Korean Workers' Party in 1997. (Watch North Korean weapons and nuclear facilities -- 3:37)

The speculation began Tuesday after North Korea announced it "will in the future conduct a nuclear test" on an unspecified date, citing American belligerence and pressure in the region. (Text of statement)

It was the first time North Korea has made an official announcement that it would conduct nuclear tests. Previously, it has said it had the right to conduct such tests. (Watch how the world changes if North Korea tests a nuke -- 2:09)

But on Sunday the North reportedly denied speculation that a nuclear test was imminent and said the regime has not raised the alert level of the country's military, according to a former South Korean lawmaker quoted by The Associated Press. (Full story)

Calls for U.S. pullout

Saturday's report said the U.S. preparation in the region "drives the inter-Korean relations to a phase of catastrophe and war.

"The South Korean warlike forces are bound to face punishment by the nation and self-destruction as they are hellbent on the war moves bringing the nation to ruin, serving the U.S. in its moves to stifle [North Korea]. The U.S. should pull its aggression forces out of South Korea and its vicinity at once."

On Friday, the U.N. Security Council warned North Korea against testing a nuclear weapon, citing unspecified action if it should do so. It also called on North Korea to return immediately to the six-party talks with China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States.

The North has said it would boycott the nuclear talks until the U.S. lifts financial restrictions imposed for its alleged counterfeiting and money laundering, according to AP.

However, the South Korean lawmaker quoted by AP said Sunday that North Korea informed China it may drop its plan to conduct a test if the United States holds bilateral talks with the communist country. (Full story)

Pyongyang claims it has nuclear weapons and needs them to deter a U.S. attack, but hasn't performed any known test to verify that, AP reported. Many experts believe the North has enough radioactive material to build at least a half-dozen or more nuclear weapons, according to AP.

Japanese officials said they may step up pressure and sanctions on North Korea if a test is conducted. Shoichi Nakagawa, Japan's Liberal Democratic Party's policy chief, said on public broadcaster NHK that Japan may consider stopping imports and exports and implementing naval inspections.

Warning shots fired

On Saturday in the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea, South Korean troops fired 60 warning shots when North Korean soldiers crossed the line of demarcation. The soldiers retreated behind the line after the shots were fired, a South Korean official said. (Full story)

Earlier this week, the U.S. envoy to the stalled North Korea talks said the United States would not tolerate a nuclear North Korea and warned Pyongyang not to test a nuclear weapon. "We are not going to live with a nuclear North Korea," Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill told the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University on Wednesday.

"We are not going to accept it." North Korea "can have a future, or it can have these weapons. It cannot have both," Hill said. The U.S. and its allies "are in a very tense time" in dealing with Pyongyang, Hill added.

A nuclear weapons test by North Korea would significantly set back diplomatic efforts with the communist nation and have serious implications for regional security, according to a U.S. House Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday. (Watch potential North Korean nuclear weapons test sites -- 1:31)

Coming on the heels of North Korea's test firing of seven missiles, including a long-range ballistic missile in July, a nuclear test would bring Pyongyang's relations with its neighbors to a new low, the report found.

The tests might prompt not only Japan, but also Taiwan and possibly South Korea to begin their own nuclear weapons programs, the report found.

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