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North Korea warns of attack, says truce no longer valid

May 28, 2009 - 4:00PM

North Korea says it is abandoning the truce that ended the Korean war and has warned it could launch a military attack, deepening tensions two days after testing an atomic bomb for the second time.

The strongly worded announcement on Wednesday came amid reports the secretive North, which outraged the international community with its bomb test on Monday, was also restarting nuclear fuel work that could make plutonium for an atomic weapon.

Defying international condemnation, the regime of Kim Jong-Il said it could no longer guarantee the safety of US and South Korean ships off its west coast and that the Korean peninsula was veering back to a state of war.

"Those who have provoked us will face unimaginable merciless punishment," the statement on the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, blaming Washington and Seoul for the latest turn of events.

The North's anger was provoked by the South's decision to join a US-led international security initiative, established after the September 11 attacks, to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

South Korea joined the so-called PSI after the North on Monday carried out a second nuclear bomb test which was far more powerful than the first test in October 2006.

The PSI, which includes more than 90 nations, provides for the stopping of vessels to ensure they are not carrying weapons of mass destruction or the components to make them.

"Any tiny hostile acts against our republic, including the stopping and searching of our peaceful vessels ... will face an immediate and strong military strike in response," the North Korean statement said.

It said its military would "no longer be bound" by the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean war - in which the United States fought on the side of the South - because Washington had drawn Seoul into the PSI.

With no binding ceasefire, it said, "the Korean peninsula will go back to a state of war".

The North has taken an increasingly harder line with the international community in recent months, testing a long-range rocket in April, several missiles over the past few days and its second nuclear test on Monday.

Analysts say Kim, 67, is likely carrying out the shows of strength to reassert his control in the impoverished hermit state. He reportedly had a stroke in August, which has renewed questions about who might succeed him.

"Kim is trying [with the nuclear test] to impress the cadres and the elite in general ... to convince powerholders that his family is the one that should be ruling the country," Peter Beck of American University in Washington said on Tuesday.

"It is not unreasonable to conclude that they are no longer interested in nuclear diplomacy," Beck, a Korea expert, said.

Almost six years of international disarmament talks aimed at getting the North to abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for energy aid and security guarantees have failed to get Pyongyang to give them up.

The international community, including the North's main ally China, strongly condemned its latest nuclear test.

But diplomats at the UN Security Council said they would need time to agree on a new resolution against the North.

"It is a ludicrous idea for the US to think that it can defeat us by sanctions," the North's official cabinet newspaper Minju Joson said.

"We have been living under US sanctions for decades," it said. "The US hostile policy towards us is like beating a rock with a rotten egg."

In the meantime, South Korean reports said, steam has been seen coming from a plant at the North's main nuclear facility at Yongbyon - a sign it was trying to produce more weapons-grade plutonium.

The North had previously agreed to dismantle Yongbyon under a 2007 deal that was hailed as a breakthrough. But the follow-up agreements to that deal fell apart, and the six-nation talks that worked out that agreement have since stalled.


What particularly concerns me is the DPRK saying they will no longer be bound by the truce. More brinkmanship by Kim Jong-Il? He playing a dangerous game, especially when both China and Russia do not appear to support his actions.

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I've heard different interpretations of what they said, a former British Ambassador to DPRK was interviewed on BBC World Service this morning (last night for Evan) and his translation was that they said they would no longer be bound by the truce IF South Korean ships intercepted ships heading to the north.

Not that the North korean leadership isn't totally nuts but since a blockade is considered an act of war that was not such an unreasonable position.

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