N Korea accuses US of planning nuclear attack

In a second day of bluster following a landmark disarmament accord, North Korea on Wednesday threatened retaliation if the United States carries out what the North claims are plans to annihilate it in a nuclear attack.

North Korea “is fully ready to decisively control a pre-emptive nuclear attack with a strong retaliatory blow even if the US commits it [at] any moment”, the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in an English-language commentary by the official Korean Central News Agency.

At six-nation talks in Beijing on Monday, North Korea had promised to give up its nuclear-weapons programme for economic assistance and security assurances—the first agreement in more than two years of contentious negotiations.

Since then, however, the North’s rhetoric has underscored its unpredictability and cast doubts on its commitment to the agreement hammered out with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the US after four rounds of talks in two years.

Just hours after the latest agreement, North Korea threw its pledge into question on Tuesday when it said it would not dismantle its nuclear-weapons programme unless Washington agreed to supply light-water reactors for generating electricity—a condition Washington had already rejected.

Still, none of the North’s negotiating partners say they expect a breakdown in the disarmament talks, scheduled to continue in November when the parties plan to reconvene in the Chinese capital to begin the hard work of implementing the agreement.

“Clear is the ulterior intention of the US talking about settlement of the nuclear issue through dialogue under the pretext of the six-party talks,” the Rodong Sinmun said on Wednesday. “In a word, it is to disarm the DPRK and stifle it with nuke.”

“DPRK” is an abbreviation of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

‘No intention to attack’

Washington has repeatedly denied previous North Korean allegations of a planned attack, most recently in the joint statement forged by the six parties in China, where the US side “affirmed that it has no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and has no intention to attack or invade [North Korea] with nuclear or conventional weapons”.

Pyongyang and Washington also pledged to respect each other’s sovereignty and right to peaceful coexistence, and to take steps to normalise relations.

The North demanded at the outset of the Beijing talks last week that it be given a light-water reactor—a type less easily diverted for weapons use—in exchange for disarming.

US officials opposed the idea, maintaining that North Korea could not be trusted with any nuclear programme at all.

This week’s agreement sidestepped the issue, with participants saying they would discuss it “at an appropriate time”.

North Korea’s negotiating partners made it clear that the reactor could only be discussed after Pyongyang carries out the pledge it made on Monday to rejoin the global nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and accepts inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Suspended nuclear-reactor plans

Separately, a US-led international energy consortium plans to meet next week to discuss its suspended project to build power-generating nuclear reactors in the North, a South Korean official said on Wednesday.

The board meeting of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (Kedo) is set for Monday and Tuesday in New York, said Ryu Jin-young, from the Office of Planning for the Light-Water Reactor Project—the South Korean agency dealing with the consortium.

Kedo’s executive board members are the US, South Korea, Japan and the European Union.

The two light-water reactors were meant as a reward to the communist North for agreeing to freeze—and ultimately dismantle—its nuclear programme under a 1994 deal with the US.

However, the $4,6-billion project was suspended in 2003 amid a renewed crisis over the North’s nuclear ambitions that eventually spawned the current six-party forum.

New York-based Kedo has continued to hold occasional board meetings, though next week’s will be the first since Monday’s agreement.

North Korea has yet to clarify whether the light-water reactors it demanded on Tuesday refer to the suspended Kedo project.—Sapa-AP

Associated Press writer Jae-Soon Chang in Seoul contributed to this report

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