From the June 2003 Idaho Observer:


North Korea says it needs 'nuclear deterrent' against U.S.

The following story was excerpted from an article that appeared as a top story on the website for the North Korean Daily newspaper June 9, 2003. Americans barely understand that U.S. troop movements in South Korea indicate a pending military confrontation and the North Korean response will be nuclear.

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea sharpened its tone in the standoff with the United States on Monday, threatening for the first time to develop a "nuclear deterrent" unless Washington abandons its "hostile" stance toward the communist nation.

The statement was the isolated North's most direct public admission of its intention to develop nuclear weapons. Until now, Pyongyang has referred to its need for "physical deterrence" against what it calls U.S. plans to attack it.

"If the U.S. keeps threatening the DPRK with nukes instead of abandoning its hostile policy toward Pyongyang, the DPRK will have no option but to build up a nuclear deterrent force," the KCNA news agency said in its official English translation, using the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The regime also linked its nuclear efforts to rebuild the country's shattered economy. The "intention to build up a nuclear deterrent force is not aimed to threaten and blackmail others," but rather aims to reduce conventional weapons and funnel resources to programs that benefit its citizens, the agency said.

Pyongyang keeps two-thirds of its 1.1 million-strong military, the world's fifth largest, near the inter-Korean border, the world's most heavily fortified.

The United States has asked North Korea to reduce its troops near the border, but the North has emphasized the importance it sees in using military force to stave off a possible U.S. attack in the wake of the war against Iraq.

The North has insisted in the past that it has the right to develop nuclear weapons to defend itself. U.S. officials say Pyongyang leaders told them the North already has at least one nuclear bomb and seeks to develop more.

The escalation came as South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun repeated Monday that his country would never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Addressing Japanese lawmakers at the end of his first official visit to Tokyo, Roh acknowledged that negotiating an end to the standoff over North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons program would take time.

"I am not hoping that this issue can be solved in a day or two," Roh said.

Despite the tensions, the Koreas announced that they agreed to connect their railways at the border on Saturday, the first such link between the two in half a century. The railways, under construction in the Demilitarized Zone, will be linked at two points along the 150-mile border, the countries announced Monday.

Korea was divided at the end of World War II, and the last train to cross the border did so shortly before the 1950-53 Korean War.

South Korea has been pressing a policy of reconciliation with the North - even during the nuclear standoff. Pyongyang has said it would give up its nuclear programs in exchange for U.S. security guarantees and economic aid, which it needs to fight the severe privation and food shortages its 22 million people suffer.

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