- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 2, 2003

SEOUL South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, in his first policy speech since taking office, yesterday warned of a "calamity" from the standoff over North Korea's nuclear program unless a peaceful resolution is found quickly.
After his speech, Pyongyang issued a dispatch threatening that nuclear war could break out on the Korean Peninsula at "any moment," an escalation of the communist North's hostile rhetoric as international pressure grows for it to disarm.
On the eve of Mr. Roh's inauguration Tuesday, North Korea fueled tensions by test-firing a missile into the sea off its east coast. Expecting a second test, Japanese Deputy Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said yesterday that Pyongyang may fire its long-range Taepo Dong ballistic missile toward the sea between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, Kyodo news agency reported.
The North's official news agency also accused Washington of planning massive war games to prepare for an invasion and said the country is "fully ready to repel the U.S. military attack." North Korea will take "a self-defensive measure when it thinks that the U.S. pre-emptive attack is imminent," the agency KCNA said without elaborating.
KCNA, the reclusive Stalinist regime's bulletin board for the outside world, said an American RC-135 reconnaissance plane has intruded on North Korean airspace over its east coast almost daily since Feb. 21.
The U.S. military does not comment on such reports, said Stephen Oertwig, a U.S. military spokesman in Seoul. But North Korea's east coast is dotted with guns and missile bases that U.S. intelligence officials say they believe can launch ballistic missiles.
North Korea made the charges of intrusions as the United States and South Korea planned two joint annual military exercises, from Tuesday to April 2 and March 19-26.
"These unceasing U.S. war drills drive the situation on the Korean Peninsula to such a dangerous pitch of tension that a nuclear war may break out on it any moment," KCNA said.
Washington has said repeatedly that it has no plans to invade North Korea.
About 100,000 pro-U.S. demonstrators jammed a downtown Seoul plaza yesterday to support the presence of 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea and condemn the North. The demonstrators, many of them veterans in military uniforms who waved South Korean and U.S. flags, want the troops to remain to defend the South from a Northern attack.
In addition to the missile test, North Korea has reactivated a 5-megawatt reactor that could produce material for nuclear weapons, U.S. and South Korean officials said earlier this week.
The South Korean government sees Pyongyang's recent maneuvers as intended to force the United States into direct dialogue on a nonaggression treaty. Washington has refused to hold direct talks unless Pyongyang abandons its nuclear programs and has ruled out a formal nonaggression treaty with Pyongyang, saying it has never signed such a treaty with any country.
In his speech, Mr. Roh said he adamantly opposes North Korea's nuclear development but that the issue must be resolved peacefully.
"If peace on the Korean Peninsula collapses for whatever reason, it would bring about a tremendous calamity that we cannot cope with," he said.

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