- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 11, 2003

BEIJING, Jan. 11 (UPI) — Anxieties over North Korea's pullout from the non-proliferation treaty mounted Saturday when its ambassador to China announced the communist country was also suspending a moratorium on test firing ballistic missiles.

"The moratorium on our missile test firing will be of no exception now that the U.S. has rendered all agreements invalid," said North Korean ambassador to China Choe Jin Su.

"The development, testing, deployment and export of our missiles belongs entirely to our sovereignty."

Choe made the statements during the question-and-answer portion of a trilingual —Korean, Chinese and English — news conference held in Beijing late Saturday afternoon.

North Korea test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile that crossed over Japan in 1998, then in 1999 declared a moratorium on further test flights lasting until the beginning of this year.

The pronouncement in Beijing on Saturday introduced another element of uncertainty to an already tense situation brought about by North Korea Friday becoming the first country to leave the international treaty aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Nancy Beck told United Press International there would be no immediate comment on North Korea's most recent statements.

The bulk of the 90-minute event was a reiteration of North Korean rhetoric made on Jan. 10 to justify quitting the accord, placing responsibility for its decision on the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The North Korean ambassador to China said the Vienna-based nuclear agency of the United Nations was "a tool for the hostile policy towards the DPRK." As for the United States, it "is responsible for instability on the Korean peninsula with its inclusion of North Korea in the 'axis of evil,' singling it out for a preemptive nuclear attack."

DPRK is the acronym used for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the world's only dynastic communist government that has been ruled by Kim Jong Il since the death of his father, Kim Il Sung, in 1994.

Unlike conventional news conferences, where newsmakers answer individual questions from reporters after making opening statements, North Korean government officials on Saturday collected all the queries and then responded to them in blanket format.

The question asked by United Press International to identify which nations supported North Korea in its latest policy shift was one of several posed by Western reporters that went unanswered.

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(With reporting by Anwar Iqbal at the U.S. State Department.)

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