Mon, Feb 02, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Kim Jong-il touts ‘invincible’ North Korean military

AFP , SEOUL

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has hailed his troops as “invincible,” state media said yesterday, as tensions with the South escalated.

Kim expressed confidence in his troops’ ability to “shatter any surprise invasion of the enemy at a single blow” as he inspected an army unit, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

“The KPA [Korean People’s Army] ... has grown to be the invincible revolutionary ranks, all members of which devotedly defend the party and the leader,” it quoted Kim as saying, without giving a date for the visit.

The KCNA dispatch came days after North Korea scrapped all political and military agreements with the South, further raising tensions between the two.

Accusing the South of pushing relations to the brink of war, the North announced on Friday that all political and military agreements would be nullified, including one covering their Yellow Sea border — the scene of bloody naval clashes in 1999 and 2002.

Hours later, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak vowed to stick to what Pyongyang has called a “confrontational” policy on North Korea.

Lee, who took office a year ago, rolled back the “sunshine” engagement policy of his liberal predecessors, linking Seoul’s economic assistance to Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament efforts.

South Korea stepped up its border monitoring and vowed to respond firmly to any violation, but said no unusual activities had been detected.

US State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood said the “distinctly not helpful” North Korean comments would not affect the six-party talks involving North Korea, South Korea, the US, China, Japan and Russia aimed at scrapping Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programs.

Pyongyang signed a deal with its five partners in 2007 calling for its nuclear weapons to be scrapped in return for aid, normalized relations with the US and Japan and a formal peace pact on the Korean Peninsula.

But the talks are deadlocked as North Korea, which tested a nuclear device in 2006, balks at a written agreement detailing ways to verify nuclear disarmament.

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