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Sunday, July 09, 2006

NKorea braced for 'all-out war' as tensions mount

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has vowed no compromise and said he was braced for "all-out war" as tension mounted ahead of a UN vote on whether to impose sanctions on Pyongyang for its missile tests.

Japan, which with the United States has led the push to punish the communist state, said it would not rule out a preemptive strike on
North Korea in case of a direct nuclear threat, leading Seoul to accuse Tokyo of aggravating the situation.

As China and Russia held firm Sunday against the UN draft resolution to put further sanctions on the impoverished North, a US envoy stressed a diplomatic solution on disarmament and urged Pyongyang to return to stalled talks on disarmament.

But Kim, in his first reported remarks since his regime test fired seven missiles into the sea Wednesday, pledged not to give up his weapons programs.

"The General has declared that not even a tiny concession will be made to the imperialist US invaders, our arch enemy," said a broadcast on North Korean state television, as monitored by
South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

Kim, who never speaks himself in public, said that if the United States took "revenge," it would mean "all-out war."

"It is out of the General's conviction, desire and courage that we should respond to the enemy's knife with a sword and to the enemy's gun with a cannon," the television said.

North Korea, which declared last year it had nuclear weapons, in November walked out of six-way talks on ending its nuclear program, protesting a set of US financial sanctions.

Last week's missile launch included the new Taepodong-2, which was believed to be capable of reaching Alaska or Hawaii but quickly crashed into the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Tokyo had the right to carry out a preemptive attack in the face of a serious threat despite its pacifist post-World War II constitution.

"It is impossible for us to do nothing until we are attacked by a country which says it has nuclear weapons and could fire missiles against Japan," Aso, an outspoken hawk, told NHK public television.

Aso stood firm on the UN resolution. The Security Council, where Japan has tried in vain to win the same veto power as sanctions opponents China and Russia, will decide Monday when to vote on the draft.

"If we give in to just one veto power, then we will end up sending a wrong message to the international community," Aso said.

South Korea, which has sour ties with Japan tied to its brutal 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula, criticized Tokyo for its "shrill voice."

"There is nothing good in heightening tensions on the Korean peninsula and worsening inter-Korean relations. This will not help at all to settle the nuclear issue or the missile issue," said a statement from the office of President
Roh Moo-Hyun's spokesman.

Roh also rebuffed his conservative domestic critics who have accused him of jeopardizing security through his policy of seeking reconciliation with Pyongyang.

Both South Korea and China, the North's main ally and host of the six-party talks, were left red-faced by the missile tests, which Pyongyang carried out despite weeks of appeals.

Beijing is to send an envoy Monday to Pyongyang in hopes of persuading the North to take part in an informal round of six-nation talks this month in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang.

Christopher Hill, the US delegate to the six-party nuclear negotiations, has said he is ready to meet one-on-one with the North if it takes part in the unofficial talks.

"What it needs to do is get back to the talks and implement what we already agreed to do and to get out of this dirty nuclear business it is in, to get on (with) its task with modernizing the country," Hill told reporters in Seoul before heading on to Tokyo.

Despite disagreements over sanctions, Hill said Unification Minister Lee Jong-Seok promised to bring up the missile issue during a scheduled meeting this week with his Northern counterpart. Pyongyang has yet to confirm its attendance in the talks.
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