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Last Updated: Friday, 20 June, 2003, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Pressure builds on Pyongyang
North Korean soldiers man an observation post on the border with South Korea, 18 June 2003
The secretive Stalinist state says it needs a nuclear deterrent
The United States is pressing the United Nations Security Council to condemn North Korea for its decision to resume a nuclear weapons programme.

A draft statement circulated to the five permanent members of the Security Council calls on Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear programme "in a verifiable and irreversible manner."

North Korea vowed on Friday that if the US succeeded, it would respond with "strong emergency measures," according to a state newspaper.

The European Union has also issued stern warnings to North Korea over its suspect nuclear activities, according to a draft statement issued by EU leaders meeting in Greece on Friday.

The 15-nation meeting urged the Stalinist state to visibly dismantle its nuclear programme and comply fully with the international non-proliferation treaty (NPT), from which it withdrew last year.

'In breach of obligations'

Washington's proposed statement "condemns North Korea's nuclear weapons programmes and the actions the regime has taken since last October, when it acknowledged it was pursuing a uranium enrichment programme".

PERMANENT MEMBERS OF SECURITY COUNCIL
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UK
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It also condemns the country's "breach of its international obligations".

US Ambassador John Negroponte has already discussed the draft with diplomats from Russia, Britain and France and China, according to security council diplomats.

But there is no guarantee that the UN will act on it.

In April, both China and Russia used their veto power as permanent Security Council members to block a US request for the 15-member body to condemn North Korea for pulling out of the NPT.

China has reportedly recently indicated that it still wants the issue handled outside the Council.

South Korea, as a key US ally in the region, has also reiterated its reluctance that the issue be dealt with by the Security Council.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan said on Friday that Seoul wanted more time to allow the to respond to a US proposal for multilateral talks on the eight-month-old nuclear impasse.

If the UN does agree to Washington's proposal, it would take the form of a presidential statement, and would not carry the same legal weight as a council resolution, says the BBC's UN correspondent, Greg Barrow.

But it would still send a clear message that the UN was serious about addressing the nuclear threat on the Korean peninsula, he says.

Deadlock

North Korea has repeatedly warned that it would view UN sanctions against it as a declaration of war.

The communist state's party newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, described America's latest move as "an attempt to legitimise an international pressure campaign against us and provoke a second Korean War".

On Wednesday, Pyongyang warned it would strengthen its nuclear deterrents in response to growing pressure from the US, and warned of retaliation in the event of any "hostile act".

The nuclear crisis erupted last October when the US said Pyongyang had admitted to a covert nuclear weapons programme in violation of a 1994 agreement.

Pyongyang is calling for direct talks with Washington over the crisis, but the US insists that talks must also include North Korea's regional neighbours - South Korea, China and Japan.

On Friday, US authorities unofficially told their Japanese counterparts that North Korea already possessed nuclear warheads that could be carried by ballistic missiles capable of hitting Japan, according to a report in the newspaper Sankei Shimbun.




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