Mon, Jun 15, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Pyongyang warns of nuclear conflict amid rising tensions

AP , SEOUL

North Korea has warned of a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula while vowing to step up its atomic bomb-making program in defiance of new UN sanctions.

The North’s defiance presents a growing diplomatic headache for US President Barack Obama as he prepares for talks tomorrow with his South Korean counterpart on the North’s missile and nuclear programs.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told security-related ministers during an unscheduled meeting yesterday to “resolutely and squarely” cope with the North’s latest threat, his office said. Lee is to leave for the US this morning.

A commentary yesterday in the North’s main state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, claimed the US has 1,000 nuclear weapons in South Korea. Another commentary published on Saturday in the state-run Tongil Sinbo weekly claimed the US has been deploying a vast amount of nuclear weapons in South Korea and Japan.

North Korea “is completely within the range of US nuclear attack and the Korean peninsula is becoming an area where the chances of a nuclear war are the highest in the world,” the Tongil Sinbo commentary said.

Kim Yong-kyu, a spokesman at the US military command in Seoul, called the latest accusation “baseless,” saying Washington has no nuclear bombs in South Korea. US tactical nuclear weapons were removed from South Korea in 1991 as part of arms reductions following the Cold War.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry issued a statement yesterday demanding the North stop stoking tension, abandon its nuclear weapons and return to dialogue with the South.

Yesterday Yonhap news agency reported South Korea and the US had mobilized spy satellites, reconnaissance aircraft and human intelligence networks to obtain evidence that the North has been running a uranium enrichment program.

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