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Saturday, 1 February, 2003, 09:55 GMT
Tensions rise over North Korea
In this North Korean poster, Capitol Hill is the target
Tensions have escalated steadily since last October
Tensions are continuing to rise between the US and North Korea over Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

CRISIS CHRONOLOGY
16 Oct: US announces that N Korea has acknowledged secret nuclear programme
14 Nov: Oil shipments to N Korea halted
22 Dec: N Korea removes monitoring devices at Yongbyon nuclear plant
31 Dec: UN nuclear inspectors forced to leave North Korea
10 Jan: N Korea pulls out of anti-nuclear treaty
24 Jan: North-South talks end without making progress
28 Jan: President Bush urges the "oppressive" N Korean regime to give up its nuclear ambitions
30 Jan: N Korea responds with allegations of American hypocrisy and aggression
31 Jan: White House warns N Korea over suspected nuclear activity
The official media in North Korea has stepped up its anti-United States propaganda, calling on people to engage in what is described as a "sacred battle" against the US.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans took part in outdoor rallies across the country, and then attended exhibitions of anti-American propaganda.

In a separate development, the commander of United States forces in the Pacific has asked for additional troops, aircraft and ships in the event of a US-led war with Iraq, US defence officials said.

Admiral Thomas Fargo asked the Pentagon to strengthen the US military presence in the region to deter North Korea from conducting any military action while a possible Iraqi conflict was under way, they said.

"The admiral wants to be sure that the North Koreans don't launch any adventure to take advantage of what they might see as preoccupation with Iraq," said one of the unnamed officials.

The US already has 37,000 troops based in South Korea.

Nuclear concerns

Earlier, US officials expressed renewed concern about North Korea's nuclear programme.

They say satellite images showed the apparent loading of covered trucks at the North Korean nuclear complex at Yongbyon.

Satellite photo of Yongbyon power plant
About 8,000 nuclear fuel rods are said to be stored at Yongbyon

The plant, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Pyongyang, has a reactor and some 8,000 nuclear fuel rods, which could be reprocessed to extract weapons-grade plutonium.

The American officials said there was no sign that such reprocessing had begun, but White House spokesman Ari Fleischer warned North Korea against what he called a "provocative action".

Experts say that if North Korea really has begun moving the rods, it could either be attempting to hide them or may be moving them to a reprocessing plant to produce bomb-grade plutonium.

Other commentators have suggested that North Korea is well aware the plant is under surveillance and it is trying to improve its bargaining position with the leverage afforded by the nuclear threat.

North Korea's nuclear programme has come under intense international scrutiny since it expelled UN weapons inspectors in December and pulled out of the 1994 global nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty last month.

It says it is the target of US "aggression" and that by halting oil shipments last year, the US has forced it to restart nuclear power stations for energy generation.


Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

26 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
24 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
24 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
22 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
10 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
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