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Page last updated at 16:19 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 17:19 UK

Tensions high in North Korea row

Image grab of North Korean TV showing apparent rocket launch
Pyongyang said criticism of its launch was an "unbearable insult"

International tensions have remained high after North Korea said it was expelling UN nuclear inspectors and resuming work on its nuclear programme.

The US, which said its own inspectors were also being expelled, called the moves "a step in the wrong direction".

Washington has joined China, Russia, Japan and other countries in urging Pyongyang to return to negotiations.

The row follows North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket on 5 April, which critics say was a missile test.

Video stills from KCTV of North Koreans paying their respects to Kim Il-sung's statue in Pyongyang
North Koreans have been paying their respects to late leader Kim Il-sung

By contrast, the mood was festive in Pyongyang on Wednesday as the communist nation celebrated the Day of the Sun - the anniversary of the birth of founding President Kim Il-sung.

State media called for unshakeable loyalty to his son, the current ruler Kim Jong-il, and credited the launch as a "historic victory".

North Korea has said it wants to develop its space programme by 2012, which will mark 100 years since Kim Il-sung's birth. It said the launch was a step towards that goal.

Interceptions mulled

Pyongyang's move has been criticised by all the other members of the six party talks - the US, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan.

But the North insists it put a communications satellite into orbit, and reacted angrily to Monday's statement from the UN Security Council condemning the launch.

It said the criticism was an "unbearable insult" which debased the North Korean people.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The UN must initiate fresh talks with the N Korea for which China should take a lead
Dr Yellosa, India

North Korea's foreign ministry said it was quitting the long-running six party talks on its nuclear programmes and would "not be bound by any agreement reached at the talks".

The ministry also said it was taking steps to reactivate its partially-dismantled Yongbyon nuclear facility.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had been instructed to remove seals and equipment from the Yongbyon reactor and that its monitors had been ordered to leave North Korea.

Meanwhile, US State Department spokesman Robert Wood said: "The US government experts and staff monitoring the shutdown and disablement of the Yongbyon facilities have been asked by North Korean authorities to depart."

Analysts say South Korea may soon announce that it is signing up to the controversial US-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) in response.

Membership of the PSI would allow South Korea to intercept any ships heading for the North which are believed to be carrying weapons or other items covered by existing sanctions.

N Korea must end nuclear 'threats'

The White House has called on North Korea "to cease its provocative threats and to respect the will of the international community and to honour its international commitments and obligations".

Spokesman Robert Gibbs defended the UN statement, and said withdrawing from negotiations was "a serious step in the wrong direction" for North Korea.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has described North Korea's reaction as "an unnecessary response to the legitimate statement put out of concern by the Security Council".

China and Russia - the North's neighbours and closest allies - have already urged North Korea to reconsider its decision, with Beijing calling for "calm and restraint".

Japan, whose territory the rocket flew over, said returning to the talks was the best option for North Korea.

"Based on close co-operation with all countries involved, starting with the US, we want to demonstrate progress in the six party talks," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura.

Limited options

IAEA inspectors went to North Korea following a landmark deal in February, under which it agreed to end its nuclear ambitions in return for aid and political incentives.

NUCLEAR CRISIS
Feb 2007 - North Korea agrees to close its main nuclear reactor in exchange for fuel aid
June 2007 - North Korea shuts its main Yongbyon reactor
June 2008 - North Korea makes its long-awaited declaration of nuclear assets
Oct 2008 - The US removes North Korea from its list of countries which sponsor terrorism
Dec 2008 - Pyongyang slows work to dismantle its nuclear programme after a US decision to suspend energy aid
Jan 2009 - The North says it is scrapping all military and political deals with the South, accusing it of "hostile intent"
5 April 2009 - Pyongyang launches a rocket carrying what it says is a communications satellite
14 April 2009 - After criticism of the launch from the UN Security Council, North Korea vows to walk out of six-party talks

It had carried out a nuclear test in October 2006.

Some progress was made - last year North Korea partially disabled its Yongbyon reactor and handed over what it said was a complete declaration of its nuclear activities.

In return, the US removed North Korea from the list of countries it says sponsors terrorism.

But talks have stalled in recent months, as Washington and Pyongyang accused each other of failing to meet obligations.

Analysts say the action from North Korea appears to be an attempt to test the Obama administration and to force it to make fresh concessions.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Washington says that beyond condemning Pyongyang's actions, Washington's options are limited.

North Korea's neighbours, such as Beijing, are more concerned with maintaining its stability while the US wants to ensure Pyongyang remains at the negotiating table.



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