- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2002

From combined dispatches
SEOUL North Korea threatened late yesterday to review all agreements with the United States over a reported U.S. nuclear strategy which targets seven countries including the communist state for possible attacks.
Shortly thereafter, a group of 20 North Korean asylum seekers in Beijing pushed their way past Chinese guards and rushed onto the grounds of the Spanish Embassy there.
The incident touched off at least one scuffle with a Chinese guard and frenetic discussions between Spanish Embassy personnel and the uniformed Chinese guards.
In delivering the threat to review all pacts, the North's foreign ministry warned in a statement that the country would have "no option but to take a substantial countermeasure" against the United States.
"We are compelled to examine all the agreements with the United States in case the U.S. plan for a nuclear attack on the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] turns out to be true," the ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
According to leaks to the U.S. media, the Defense Department's nuclear policy review calls for a shift away from the Cold War posture of using the U.S. nuclear arsenal to deter a nuclear strike from the former Soviet Union.
It sees China, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Russia and Syria as potential targets for U.S. nuclear strikes, according to the Los Angeles Times report.
U.S. officials have tried to allay international fears, saying the report merely listed options at the disposal of U.S. authorities.
The North slammed the reported U.S. strategy as "a daydream of the reckless persons who do not hesitate to stifle" the country by using nuclear weapons.
In a separate statement aired by state radio stations, the North's foreign ministry insisted that Pyongyang had "faithfully" implemented agreements signed with Washington in 1993 and 1994.
The Cold War enemies issued a joint statement in 1993 to defuse a nuclear crisis triggered by the North's withdrawal from an international nuclear-safeguard accord.
In 1994, they signed a landmark agreement under which the North froze its suspected nuclear weapons program. In return, the United States pledged to build two peaceful nuclear reactors and offer diplomatic and economic incentives.
The 1994 Agreed Framework set the stage for a string of rapprochement talks between North Korea and the United States.
But the North has threatened on several occasions to end the 1994 agreement, charging that the United States was not living up to its pledges. Its latest threats, including yesterday's warning on scrapping all accords, stem from what it calls a "hostile" policy by President Bush. It has also rejected Mr. Bush's demand for talks on a pullback of North Korean forces from the Demiltarized Zone.
The North has repeatedly denounced the United States for delaying a $4.6 billion project to build two nuclear energy reactors that produce less weapons-grade plutonium. U.S. officials have warned that the construction might suffer further delays if the North refuses to allow checks on nuclear activities.
The asylum-seeking North Koreans, including men, women and youngsters, ran through the front gate of the embassy on a tree-lined street in the Chinese capital, reporters on the scene said. One of the North Koreans struggled with a Chinese guard on the gate, but broke free and rushed in with the others.
Within minutes, dozens of armed green-uniformed Chinese guards converged on the compound. A group of Spanish diplomats came out of the embassy building, talked to some of the guards, and then went back into the building.
People who helped the North Koreans distributed written statements from the asylum seekers. The statement described them as six families and three individuals. It said they totaled 25 persons, but reporters only saw about 20.
"We are now at the point of such desperation and live in such fear of persecution within North Korea that we have come to the decision to risk our lives for freedom rather than passively await our doom," the group statement said.
"Some of us carry poison on our person to commit suicide if the Chinese authorities should choose once again to send us back to North Korea," said the printed-out statement, written in English.


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