- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 1, 2003

From combined dispatches

The United States warned North Korea yesterday against taking the "provocative" step of reprocessing nuclear fuel rods to convert them into bomb-grade plutonium, as the Stalinist state launched a nationwide campaign promoting hatred of America.

The warning came as U.S. officials reported that spy satellites have detected suspicious activity at a North Korean nuclear complex that could be the movement of 8,000 fuel rods a sign that Pyongyang may be getting ready to produce nuclear weapons.

North Korea in turn demanded again that the United States agree to a nonaggression pact to end the nuclear showdown.

"Any steps toward beginning reprocessing would be yet another provocative action by North Korea intended to intimidate and blackmail the international community," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

The United States supports the push by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog to bring the North Korea case to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions, Mr. Fleischer said.

Ignoring international pressure to quickly ease the crisis, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il inspected a military unit yesterday.

Mr. Kim was "greatly satisfied to see all the servicemen trained as indomitable fighters capable of wiping out the aggressors by resolute and merciless blows," said a report by the North's state-run KCNA news agency. The North's 1.1 million-member military is the world's fifth-largest.

Meanwhile, posters promoting confrontation with the United States went up on the walls of North Korean cities and villages, and writers penned poems to rouse the people for a "sacred battle to annihilate the enemies," KCNA said.

"I shout" and "We put the U.S. imperialists to death," were among poems lauding the communist state's Jan. 10 decision to quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it said.

U.S. satellites have detected activity at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex that could be the movement of fuel rods for reprocessing that could obtain weapons-grade plutonium, U.S. officials said.

Two officials confirmed in general terms a report in yesterday's editions of the New York Times that said U.S. satellites have observed trucks moving up to a building that houses some 8,000 fuel rods at Yongbyon.

One official said it was "unclear" what the activity was.

But he added: "If the North Koreans are moving the rods, that would be consistent with what they have said they are going to do. If in fact that is what they are doing, it would be of concern."

North Korea has insisted that it has no plans to develop nuclear weapons, and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Pyongyang should live up to those promises.

"We would expect North Korea to abide by the public commitment that it's been making, as well as the ones that it's made in the past," he told reporters.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, said earlier in Vienna, Austria, that "North Korea is in noncompliance" with nuclear nonproliferation agreements.

Mr. ElBaradei said he had asked the IAEA governing board to clear the way for the nuclear standoff to be brought before the Security Council.

He called the North's work at the reprocessing plant "a matter of grave concern" and said he hopes an emergency board meeting to deal with the North Korea crisis will take place Feb. 12 despite some disagreement among member states on the date.

"I've already submitted the report to the board saying that North Korea is in noncompliance. So we need to get the board to certify that conclusion," he said.

But North Korea's ambassador to Moscow said in Russia yesterday that his government would ignore the Feb. 12 meeting and accused the U.N. agency of serving U.S. interests.

North Korea withdrew from a 1994 agreement that froze its suspected nuclear-arms development, after the United States in October presented evidence that it was violating the accord.

Pyongyang has insisted that only a nonaggression treaty approved by Congress would solve the new nuclear crisis and that it had no interest in multilateral talks on the issue.

North Korea's ambassador to China, Choe Jin-su, said in Beijing that if Washington agreed to a nonaggression treaty, North Korea would be willing to "clear the United States of its security concerns."

"If the United States abandons its hostile policy towards our country to stifle us, and refrains from any nuclear threat towards us, we may prove through separate verification between our country and the United States that our country does not make any nuclear weapons," he said.

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