Wed, Oct 01, 2003 - Page 1 News List

North Korea says it will improve its nuclear capabilities

AP , SEOUL

North Korea said it was taking "practical measures" to boost its nuclear capabilities, reiterating that it was no longer interested in holding further negotiations with the US.

A spokesman of the communist state's Foreign Ministry also told its official news agency KCNA late Monday that if the US tries to force North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program before it provides Pyongyang with a nonaggression treaty, it would lead to a war.

The spokesman did not elaborate on the "practical measures," but the claim came as some US intelligence analysts are becoming increasingly concerned that the communist regime may have three, four or even six nuclear weapons instead of the one or two the CIA now estimates.

For weeks, North Korea has threatened to strengthen its nuclear weapons program as a "deterrent" against what it calls a US plan to invade. Its government tends to escalate its harsh rhetoric when it wants to extract concessions before crucial talks.

The latest comments, carried by KCNA yesterday, came as senior officials from the US, Japan and South Korea met in Tokyo to discuss how to coax the North to return to six-nation nuclear talks that ended late August in Beijing without agreeing on a date for further talks.

"The DPRK is taking practical measures to steadily beef up the nuclear deterrent force as a just self-defensive means to repel the US nuclear pre-emptive attack and ensure peace and security on the Korean Peninsula," the North Korean spokesman said.

DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

"It was confirmed that the US does not wish to co-exist with the DPRK in peace but tries to use the six-way talks as a leverage to completely disarm the latter," he said. "This compels the DPRK to discard any interests or expectation for the talks."

North Korea said it was no longer interested in further talks when the Beijing meeting ended a month ago.

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