Sun, Sep 03, 2006 - Page 5 News List

N Korea blasts US over missile test, war games

WAR DECLARATION Pyongyang said that joint military exercises by the US and South Korea were a real threat and jeopardized relations on the peninsula

AFP , SEOUL

A South Korean conservative activist adjusts an effigy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during an anti-North Korea rally in Seoul yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

North Korea yesterday accused the US of threatening war by carrying out a test of its missile defense system and conducting joint military exercises with the South.

The North's semi-official Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland also attacked South Korea for taking part in the annual war games and said it would only drive Pyongyang to build up its self-defense capability.

"The US staged not only a large-scale north-targeted naval and air combined maneuver in the waters around the Korean Peninsula with troops of its allies involved but carried out a missile test-fire to strike the DPRK and intercept its missiles," the committee said in a statement carried by state media.

It called the "Ulchi Focus Lens" military drills, which ended on Friday, "little short of a declaration of war against [North Korea]", saying the exercises had been "of a more provocative nature" than previous war games.

Some 9,000 US troops and an undisclosed number of South Korean soldiers took part in the 10-day exercises.

The US also successfully tested its controversial ballistic missile defense system over the Pacific on Friday, almost two months after North Korea stoked international tensions with its long-range missile tests.

The US Missile Defense Agency said a ground-based interceptor missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California hit a dummy armed missile in space that had been fired from Kodiak, Alaska.

"It is the height of folly for the US to threaten the DPRK and try to bring it to its knees, pursuant to the policy of `strength,'" the committee said, according to the statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

"This desperate effort on the part of the US will only harden the will and determination of the army and the people of the DPRK to bolster up its deterrent for self-defense," it said.

Turning on South Korea, the committee -- which is in charge of inter-Korean exchanges -- said Seoul had committed an "unpardonable crime against the nation" by joining the US in the war games.

"The South Korean authorities' act of supporting the US in its dangerous war moves against the North is a serious perfidy to the June 15 joint declaration and an unpardonable crime against the nation," it said, referring to a 2000 inter-Korean declaration for peace and reconciliation.

It said the South's participation in the joint drills "totally bedevils inter-Korean relations and brings dark clouds of a nuclear war to this land."

Relations between the two Cold War rivals have soured since North Korea conducted the missile tests in July, provoking international condemnation and a sharp rebuke at the UN Security Council.

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