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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 14:23 GMT
N Korea 'may end' nuclear pact
US Marines' amphibious vehicles in South Korea
Pyongyang is already furious about US war games
North Korea has repeated its threat to ditch a nuclear power agreement with the US after the White House said it was unable to certify that Pyongyang was keeping its side of the bargain.


If the United States breaks the promises made to the DPRK, the latter will be free to go its own way

Official N Korean newspaper
Under the 1994 pact North Korea agreed to scrap its own nuclear power programme - which the US suspected was being misused to create weapons of mass destruction - in exchange for two proliferation-proof nuclear reactors and fuel oil to use while the reactors were being built.

Pyongyang's threat comes amid renewed tension on the Korean peninsula.

The US and South Korea launched joint military exercises on Thursday, in a move condemned by North Korea - already infuriated by President Bush's inclusion in his "axis of evil" - as a declaration of war.

Last week North Korea said it would withdraw from the 1994 deal in response to reports that Washington is drawing up plans for the possible use of nuclear weapons against Pyongyang.

Brinkmanship

North Korea also claims the US is trying to scrap the agreement, despite assurances from US officials that the delivery of 500,000 tons of oil promised to North Korea every year until the delayed reactors are completed will go ahead.

US-South Korean war games
18,000 US soldiers based in S Korea taking part
315,000 South Koreans
Exercises designed to "defend" South Korea
North Korea has 1.1m troops

"It is a blatant challenge and dastardly betrayal to the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) which has made efforts for the world peace and stability, while suffering an enormous loss of electricity," said the official Minju Joson newspaper.

"If the United States breaks the promises made to the DPRK, the latter will be free to go its own way," it added.

The US-South Korea military exercises this week have already angered North Korea, even though the participants stress they are purely defensive.

Thousands of troops are involved in the drills, which will simulate a conflict with the Communist North.

Pyongyang said he drills were preparations to launch a "nuclear holocaust" on the Korean peninsula.

The Communist country has filed more than 100 complaints against the exercises through its officials media over the past few weeks, according to the South Korean Yonhap news agency - a key monitor of North Korean media.

The drills, which will continue until 27 March, involve 18,000 US troops based in South Korea and a small number of troops from bases in Japan, Guam and the US. About 315,000 South Korean soldiers are taking part.

The exercise merges two annual drills that used to be held separately.

It combines a computerised war game with the annual field exercises.

The troops are undergoing a range of training, including counter-infiltration exercises and other tests to evaluate the operational mobility of forces.

Talks deadlock

Despite the current tension, South Korea is anxious to see dialogue between the US and North Korea get back on track.

On Wednesday, President Kim Dae-jung said North Korea had "no other choice" but to resume talks with the US.

North Korea has so far rejected a US offer for unconditional talks, believing too many strings will be attached to aid and other help.

The two Koreas remain technically at war, as their three-year conflict ended in 1953 in an armistice that has never been replaced with a permanent peace treaty.

See also:

21 Mar 02 | Media reports
North Korea slams war games
20 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea 'must talk' with US
14 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea threatens nuclear pull-out
19 Feb 02 | Media reports
N Korea attacks 'junket of war'
06 Feb 02 | Americas
Analysis: The 'axis of evil' debate
21 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Seoul scales down war games
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