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N Korea defends withdrawal from nuclear treaty

25th February 2003

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North Korea on Tuesday defended its decision to pull out of a key nuclear arms treaty, saying it had been forced to act because of threats from the United States.

Pyongyang's number two leader, Supreme People's Assembly president Kim Yong Nam, told the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that "at this stage" its nuclear activities would be confined to peaceful purposes.

His remarks came a day after Pyongyang's firing of a missile ratcheted up regional tension, sparking a military alert in South Korea and criticism at the summit.

A South Korean defense ministry official said there were no details immediately available about the type of missile fired, or about its range.

North Korea agreed to a moratorium on missile testing after it caused international alarm in 1998 when it test-fired a Taepodong ballistic missile that flew over northeastern Japan into the Pacific Ocean.

Kim told the NAM summit that North Korea "was compelled to decide to withdraw from the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT) to cope with the grave situation in which its supreme interests are extremely threatened by the reckless US policy."
Although Pyongyang had taken this action, "its nuclear activities at this stage would be confined only to the peaceful purposes such as the production of electricity," he said, referring to a government statement issued on January 10.

Kim said the nuclear issue was the "product of the deep-rooted hostile policy pursued by the US for more than half a century in order to isolate and stifle the DPRK."
The crisis could only be resolved by negotiations between the two countries and the conclusion of a non-aggression treaty, he said.

Indonesia, whose President Megawati Sukarnoputri has offered to mediate in the stand-off, urged North Korea to exercise self-restraint.

"We haven't yet found any mechanisms that can bring parties of the conflict to the dialogue table. Now the firing of the missiles would certainly complicate the problem," Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda told reporters on the sidelines of the NAM summit.

Pyongyang has long rejected international involvement in what it considers a dispute between it and the United States alone.

Chile's envoy to the United Nations, where it currently has a non-permanent seat on the Security Council, Claudio Rojas, said NAM members had appealed to North Korea to reconsider its withdrawal from the NPT and would "lament" the missile firing.

Earlier, however, NAM negotiators backed down from an attempt to pressure North Korea to reverse its decision to quit the NPT, which seeks to limit possession of nuclear weapons to the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain.

Instead, a resolution to be presented at the end of the summit Tuesday says the leaders simply "noted the withdrawal of the DPRK (North Korea) from the NPT," according to a final draft obtained by AFP.

The NAM resolution expresses "serious concern over the recent developments on the Korean Peninsula" and calls "upon all parties concerned to do everything possible to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully."
The North Korean issue temporarily knocked the crisis over Iraq from the top of the NAM agenda, but it was due to surface again later in the day when Iraq's Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan addresses the summit.

NAM, which consists mainly of developing countries and has been meeting since 1961, was conceived as an alternative to the Eastern and Western blocs during the Cold War - Sapa-AFP
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