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North Korea Nullifies 1992 Nuclear Accord

Pact with South Korea is voided as South's president visits U.S. over weapons crisis.

May 13, 2003|From Associated Press

SEOUL — North Korea said Monday a 1992 agreement with South Korea to keep the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons was nullified, citing a "sinister" U.S. agenda.

The accord was the last remaining legal obligation under which North Korea was banned from developing atomic arms. In January, Pyongyang withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, a global accord to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

"The joint [inter-Korean] agreement to keep the Korean Peninsula nuclear free was nullified because of a sinister and hostile U.S. policy against North Korea," the North's official news agency, KCNA, said. The statement was monitored by South Korean news agency Yonhap.

The two Koreas signed the agreement in January 1992, pledging to renounce hostilities and ban the development and deployment of nuclear weapons on the divided peninsula.

Monday's announcement came as South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun visited the United States on a weeklong trip that will focus on seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis over North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons programs.

Roh, who is scheduled to meet President Bush at the White House on Wednesday, paid a solemn visit Monday to ground zero in New York City.

North Korea has accused the United States of planning to attack the isolated country, using the nuclear dispute as an excuse for invasion. Washington says it wants to resolve the crisis through dialogue, though U.S. officials have not ruled out a military option.

"We have realized that as long as the United States does not abandon its hostile policy against the North, efforts to keep the Korean Peninsula nuclear free is nothing more than an illusion," KCNA said. "We will further boost our already mighty military power."

A spokeswoman for Roh said the North Korean statement might be a negotiating ploy in the wake of talks last month with U.S. officials in Beijing.

During the talks, U.S. officials said North Korea claimed it had reprocessed 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods -- a move that could yield several atomic bombs. North Korea offered to drop its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for security guarantees and economic aid, according to U.S. officials who were reviewing the proposal.

The Beijing talks were the first since the crisis flared in October, when Washington said North Korea admitted running a secret nuclear weapons program.

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