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 Monday, 30 December, 2002, 10:42 GMT
Pyongyang issues fresh nuclear threat
An aerial view of Yongbyon
North Korea has reactivated the Yongbyon reactor
North Korea has hinted it could pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if the confrontation over its nuclear programme continues.

The North has already expelled inspectors from its nuclear complex at Yongbyon and is threatening to restart the facilities.

Colin Powell, US Secretary of State
Powell: No immediate strikes against North Korea
The US says it is not planning to attack North Korea, but does favour a "tailored containment" strategy which could include economic sanctions on Pyongyang.

The last time North Korea pulled out of the NPT, nine years ago, there was a dangerous confrontation with Washington.

A statement from the North Korean foreign ministry, carried by the North's KCNA news agency on Sunday, implied that Pyongyang could be preparing to ditch the treaty again.

It said it had halted withdrawal from the NPT in 1994 after reaching a deal with Washington, known as the Agreed Framework (AF).

However the statement went on to say that the US had begun "ditching... the AF, thus putting this special status of ours in peril".

Under the accord reached with the US in 1994, North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear programme in exchange for fuel and aid.

But in November, Washington halted the fuel shipments because, it said, Pyongyang had admitted it was resuming its nuclear programme.

North Korea then unsealed the Yongbyon plant and began moving nuclear fuel rods there.

CRISIS CHRONOLOGY
1992 photo of the Yongbyon reactor
16 Oct: N Korea acknowledges secret nuclear programme, US announces
14 Nov: Fuel shipments to N Korea halted
12 Dec: N Korea threatens to reactivate Yongbyon plant
22 Dec: N Korea removes monitoring devices at Yongbyon reactor
26 Dec: UN says 1,000 fuel rods have been moved to the plant
27 Dec: N Korea says it will expel UN nuclear inspectors

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, said on Sunday that despite the crisis, his country has no immediate plans to attack North Korea.

Washington has instead set out a strategy to handle Pyongyang by isolating it economically - asking North Korea's neighbours and allies to cut economic ties, and urging the UN to impose sanctions.

But South Korea's president said on Monday that he did not support sanctions as a diplomatic approach.

Kim Dae-jung told a cabinet meeting that pressuring and isolating Communist countries had never been successful, and pledged to continue his policy of engagement with the North.

"The more stalled relations are, the more effective this sunshine policy is. We cannot go to war with North Korea and we can't go back to the Cold War system and extreme confrontation," he said.

Raised stakes

North Korea continues to demand direct talks as a way out of the confrontation.

Its stated aim is to sign a non-aggression pact with a country it sees as a direct military threat.

But the BBC's Charles Scanlon in Seoul says the US is concerned that formal negotiations would be seen as rewarding bad behaviour.

Instead, it may seek working level contacts at the United Nations or through South Korea.

Our correspondent says that the danger is that the North will in the meantime continue to raise the stakes, encouraged by Washington's measured approach and by a recent surge of anti-American sentiment in South Korea.


NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR PROGRAMME
Yongbyon: Five-megawatt experimental nuclear power reactor and partially completed plutonium extraction facility. Activities at site frozen under 1994 Agreed Framework
Taechon: 200-MWt nuclear power reactor - construction halted under Agreed Framework
Pyongyang: Laboratory-scale "hot cells" that may have been used to extract small quantities of plutonium
Kumho: Two 1,000-MWt light water reactors being built under Agreed Framework

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"The US is preoccupied with Iraq and doesn't want another crisis"

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

30 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
28 Dec 02 | Media reports
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