Wed, Jul 28, 2004 - Page 5 News List

`War is almost unavoidable,' North Korea tells UN

REUTERS , Seoul

North Korea urged the United Nations yesterday to dissolve the UN Command on the tense peninsula and press for the withdrawal of US troops based in South Korea.

In a rare letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, North Korea's representative at the Korean War truce village called on the United Nations to dissolve the 50-year-old UN Command.

"It is our view that a war in Korea is almost unavoidable as long as the US hostile policy toward the DPRK goes on," said the 1,100-word letter, which the official KCNA news agency said was written by Colonel-General Ri Chan-bok. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Ri is the long-serving North Korean representative at the Panmunjom truce village, which lies in the middle of the Demilitarized Zone that has separated the South from the North since the Korean War. North Korea remains technically at war with the US-led UN forces in the South because the conflict ended in an armed truce that has not been replaced by a peace treaty.

It was not immediately clear whether Annan received Li's letter, which was dated July 22 and published yesterday, the 51st anniversary of the armistice which stopped fighting in the Korean War. The US military in Seoul had no immediate comment.

Ri's letter reiterated North Korean war threats and demands for a US pullout and voiced alarm at recent American moves to upgrade military readiness while cutting forces. The US announced last month that it planned to withdraw a third of its 37,500 troops from South Korea as part of a long-term global force realignment. It also plans to move forward deployed troops away from the border with the North.

To assuage South Korean concerns that the move would weaken defenses against the North's 1.1 million-strong army, the Pentagon said last year it would spend US$11 billion on advanced weaponry.

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