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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 10:31 GMT
N Korea threatens nuclear pull-out
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (L), former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (R)
Relations have slumped since Madeleine Albright's 2000 visit
North Korea has threatened to withdraw from a key nuclear agreement with the United States, in response to reports that Washington is drawing up plans for the possible use of nuclear weapons against Pyongyang.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that if the reports were true, it would be forced to review all its accords with Washington.

The US is trying to reign as a nuclear rogue country

North Korean statement
Under a landmark deal signed in 1994, North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear-arms programme in return for light-water nuclear reactors provided by the US.

The secret Pentagon document, first reported in US newspapers at the weekend, outlines scenarios in which nuclear weapons might be used against a number of countries.

On Wednesday, the North Korean news agency KCNA warned that the government would take a "strong countermeasure" against such a move.

The latest foreign ministry statement, broadcast early Thursday morning on North Korean radio, accused Washington of having no regard for international agreements on nuclear weapons.

It said: "The Bush group's nuclear attack plan... would not hesitate removing the entire Korean nation off the face of the earth by [starting] a nuclear war disaster."

Three-pronged plan

The leaked Pentagon report said nuclear weapons could be used in "retaliation for attack with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons" and "against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack".

US nuclear targets
North Korea
The third category - "in the event of surprising military developments" - is described by the BBC's Washington correspondent, Paul Reynolds, as a "catch-all" clause.

The report - titled Nuclear Posture Review - is quoted as saying the Pentagon should be ready to use nuclear weapons in an Arab-Israeli conflict, a war between China and Taiwan and an attack by North Korea on the South.

As for Russia, it is said to be only listed in view of its own large nuclear arsenal and it is not viewed as an enemy.

US officials have played down the policy paper - Secretary of State Colin Powell has portrayed it as "sound... conceptual planning" only, not a blueprint for any attack.

China, Russia and Iran have already called on Washington to explain the report. China said on Tuesday it was "deeply shocked" to be included on the list.

See also:

10 Mar 02 | Americas
US defends nuclear option
09 Mar 02 | Americas
US 'has nuclear hit list'
13 Dec 01 | Americas
America withdraws from ABM treaty
10 Jan 02 | Europe
Russia attacks US missile plans
15 Feb 02 | Americas
Britain and US conduct nuclear test
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