SEOUL: North Korea's official media said yesterday its troops were in full combat readiness in case of US aggression, amid signs of rising tensions over the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula.
Radio Pyongyang quoted Korean People's Army chiefs as vowing loyalty to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who it said had toured two army units over the weekend as his country vilified the US over the three-month-old nuclear impasse.
North Korea repeatedly accused the US of preparing to attack, including deploying an aircraft carrier in waters off the peninsula.
Washington has denied this, but US officials have announced steps to shore up the American military presence in South Korea with troops and equipment to deter the North if the US attacks Iraq.
Our army and people are in full combat readiness to cope with indiscriminate military and political moves stemming from the US imperialist warhawks' strategy to dominate the Korean peninsula, said the Radio Pyongyang broadcast.
North Korea's ruling Workers Party newspaper warned that the crisis would worsen unless Washington accepted Pyongyang's demand for talks and a non-aggression pact.
As long as the US resorts to a cynical ploy, turning (its) back on the DPRK's (North Korea's) demand for direct and equal negotiations and conclusion of a non-aggression treaty, the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula cannot be settled any time, said the Rodong Sinmun in an editorial.
It will only deteriorate the crisis, said an English-language text of the editorial.
Despite the recent sabre-rattling by North Korea's state-controlled media, there have been no unusual troop movements in the North, South Korea's Defence Ministry said.
The crisis erupted last October when Washington said Pyongyang admitted pursuing a programme to enrich uranium in violation of a 1994 accord, under which it froze its nuclear programme in exchange for two energy-generating reactors and economic assistance.
In December, Pyongyang expelled UN nuclear inspectors and removed seals from a mothballed military research reactor, threatening to reactivate a plant feared capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. In January, it pulled out of the treaty preventing the spread of nuclear arms.
Last week, US officials said American satellites surveillance showed North Korea was moving fuel rods around the reactor complex, including possibly some of the 8,000 spent fuel rods that experts considered a key step in building bombs.
But there was no sign that crucial reprocessing of those spent rods had begun, US officials added.
Last week, the commander of US forces in the Pacific asked the Pentagon for more troops, aircraft and warships to deter any North Korean adventure should the Iraqi war take place.
The reinforcements sought included several thousand troops to bolster the 37,000 already based in South Korea, along with B-1 and B-52 bombers and possibly an aircraft carrier.
The Seoul-based army said yesterday the transfer of about 2,900 officers and soldiers slated to leave South Korea in the next three months would be postponed to maintain full mission readiness there. Reuters
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