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Last Updated: Friday, 6 June, 2003, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
N Korea angry at US army plans
North Korea has condemned United States plans to increase military spending on the Korean peninsula

An official North Korean newspaper editorial described last week's announcement by the US that it would spend an extra $11bn to strengthen its forces in South Korea as "preparations for a pre-emptive attack" on the North.

"The US imperialists have already worked out a scenario for a pre-emptive attack in a bid to implement their war strategy against [North Korea]", the Minju Joson said.

The warning came a day after the US and South Korea announced plans to redeploy US troops away from the tense Korean border in order to increase their flexibility.

North Korea has not yet commented on the redeployment.

Some analysts fear Pyongyang will interpret it as provocative, since it would make US troops less vulnerable to the North's extensive artillery, most of which is positioned near the demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas.

Tensions over North Korea are expected to top the agenda when South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun meets Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Tokyo on Saturday.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, centre, accompanied by guards of honour, waves to Japanese school children
South Korea's Roh Moo-hyun wants improved ties with Japan

Both men held separate talks with US President George W Bush last month aimed at hammering out a unified response to the North's alleged nuclear ambitions.

Saturday's summit will be followed by talks in Hawaii on 12-13 June by officials from all three countries.

The BBC's Seoul correspondent, Charles Scanlon, says the US military's redeployment will move 15,000 troops stationed close to the DMZ out of harm's way, while giving them greater flexibility.

The troops will first be moved into two camps, Camp Casey and Camp Red Cloud, and then south of the Han River that bisects the South Korean capital Seoul.

Military officials said the moves, described as the most far-reaching since the 1950-53 Korean war, would take a number of years to complete.

Military analysts said the main US fighting force in South Korea, the Second Infantry Division, is acutely vulnerable to North Korean artillery and rocket launchers dug in along the border.

That could result in extremely heavy casualties in the first hours of any conflict. US officials said the new positions would allow them to respond much more quickly and efficiently to any threat.

Overcoming the past

Mr Roh and Mr Koizumi are also expected to strengthen their bilateral relationship during their summit.

The South Korean leader, who left Seoul as it celebrated its memorial day for national martyrs, has already said that he will not raise sensitive issues like Japan's colonial rule over Korea or the continuing visits by Japanese ministers to the controversial Yasukuni War Shrine.

"I know many people (South Koreans) are concerned about my visit to Japan on Memorial Day... But we cannot remain bound by the shackles of the past for ever," Mr Roh said.

The Japanese emperor's speech to be given at a banquet for Mr Roh on Friday is also expected to make no mention of prickly bilateral topics, unlike on previous similar occasions.




SEE ALSO:
US agrees Korean troops moves
05 Jun 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Press fears over US troop moves
06 Jun 03  |  Asia-Pacific
N Korea 'repeats' nuclear claim
02 Jun 03  |  Asia-Pacific
N Korea threat 'to be halted'
15 May 03  |  Asia-Pacific


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