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 Tuesday, 7 January, 2003, 06:19 GMT
N Korea sanctions 'would mean war'
South Korean tank at the demilitarised zone bordering North Korea
South Korea is trying to reduce tension in the region
North Korea has said that economic sanctions by the United States would represent a declaration of war, as diplomatic efforts to resolve its nuclear weapons crisis intensify.

Sanctions mean a war... [and the US] will have to pay a very high price for such reckless acts

Official North Korean News Agency

It condemned the recent interception of a ship exporting Scud missiles to Yemen as an act of piracy and said the US would pay a "very high price for such reckless acts".

The BBC's Charles Scanlon, in the South Korean capital Seoul, says the warning is a reminder that much is at stake and that if a compromise is not found the sides will find themselves in dangerous territory.

Earlier, US President George W Bush said America had no intention of attacking North Korea.

He said he hoped for a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the dispute over the country's nuclear activities.

We have no intention of invading North Korea

President Bush
His comments came as the United Nations' nuclear watchdog passed a resolution demanding that Pyongyang readmit weapons inspectors and abandon its secret nuclear programme.

Lukewarm

The US has been holding talks with Japanese and South Korean officials, as concern continues to mount following North Korea's decision to reactivate a nuclear complex at Yongbyon which had been frozen under a 1994 deal with the US.

South Korea is expected to propose a compromise solution, by which the US will be asked to give a written guarantee of North Korea's security in exchange for North Korea scrapping its nuclear programme.

A White House spokesman said the US would stand "shoulder-to-shoulder" with South Korea on the issue.

CRISIS CHRONOLOGY
Satellite photo of the Yongbyon plant (AFP)
16 Oct: N Korea acknowledges secret nuclear programme, US says
14 Nov: Oil shipments to N Korea halted
22 Dec: N Korea removes monitoring devices at Yongbyon nuclear plant
26 Dec: UN says 1,000 fuel rods have been moved to the plant
31 Dec: UN nuclear inspectors leave North Korea
6 Jan: IAEA demands inspectors be readmitted and secret weapons programme halted
"We're not looking to make some other bargain," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

"They (North Korea) know what they need to do, and they need to come into international compliance."

If North Korea does not readmit UN inspectors and halt its weapons programme, the IAEA would turn the matter over to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions or other measures.

IAEA Director General Mohammed El Baradei said that, although no deadline had been set, North Korea had "clearly a matter of weeks" in which to act.

"There are two options for North Korea: Comply with your international obligations... or continue defiance that will escalate into a crisis situation and go to the Security Council," he said.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Charles Scanlon reports from Seoul
"Efforts to find a negotiated solution are being stepped up"
  Mohammad el-Baradei, IAEA head
"No member of the international community is ready to negotiate under blackmail"
  Independent nuclear consultant John Large
"The problem for the IAEA is that it has tried all the options before"

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

04 Jan 03 | Media reports
01 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
07 Jan 03 | Media reports
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