- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

North Korea's military has been alerted to prepare to increase its combat readiness, but U.S. intelligence officials said the notice does not indicate an increased danger of conflict.
The alert was sent to North Korean military units earlier this month and comes amid heightened tensions over Pyongyang's violation of nuclear arms agreements.
"The alert said 'get ready to get ready,'" according to one intelligence official.
Another official said the alert appeared similar to the heightened status of North Korea's million-member army prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf war. "The difference now is the nuclear problem," said another official.
The Bush administration has been trying to defuse the crisis over North Korea's new push for nuclear arms by offering concessions if Pyongyang agrees to reverse its nuclear arms program.
U.S. intelligence agencies are closely watching North Korean military forces for any signs of increased alert status, the officials said.
So far, the only indicators are preparations by military forces for routine winter training exercises, the officials said.
Most of North Korea's armed forces are deployed close to the demilitarized zone set up in 1953 to separate communist North Korea from democratic South Korea.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday that North Korean forces were conducting normal training exercises, and recent unusual patrols by North Korean troops in the demilitarized zone do not appear related to the nuclear problem.
North Korea's military activities do not appear unusual, he said.
"In terms of the DMZ and the winter training cycle, I don't see issues with either of those that would tell me that North Korea is on a different footing today than they were, let's say, 30 days ago," Gen. Myers said.
North Korean military forces patrolling the DMZ recently violated the armistice that ended the Korean War by carrying machine guns, which are banned by the accord.
As for the nation's preparations to deal with any North Korean attack, Gen. Myers said defense planners are continuing routine work on war-fighting preparations.
Defense and military officials are "working all sorts of contingencies for various situations" related to Korea, Gen. Myers said.
North Korea on Saturday announced it was withdrawing from the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which Pyongyang signed to obtain nuclear technology.
In September, North Korea admitted to covertly developing uranium-based nuclear weapons and then announced it was restarting a reactor that can produce weapons-grade plutonium.
According to U.S. forces in Korea, 70 percent of North Korean military forces are deployed within 90 miles of the South Korean border.
The North Korean forces near the demilitarized zone include 700,000 troops, more than 8,000 artillery pieces and 2,000 tanks.
The forces are deployed in more than 4,000 underground facilities that would allow the army to strike with little or no warning.
A major worry of U.S. commanders in charge of the 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea is the recent addition of long-range multiple- rocket launchers and 170 mm self-propelled guns near the DMZ.
North Korea also has up to 400 missiles of various ranges that can be equipped with high-explosive warheads or chemical and biological weapons.
U.S. intelligence officials have been watching North Korea for signs the communist state will resume missile testing.
In October 2000, the North imposed a moratorium on missile flight tests after its landmark 1998 test of a long-range Taepodong missile.
Official North Korean news media also have warned that any conflict would result in turning the United States into "a sea of fire."
Defense analysts said North Korea has the capability to launch a non-nuclear missile warhead as far away as the western United States on a Taepodong long-range missile.


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