N. Korea warns of nuclear conflict
PYONGYANG, North Korea (CNN) -- North Korea has repeated warnings to its citizens and military that it believes the United States is preparing to launch a large-scale attack on it, including a pre-emptive nuclear strike.
Pyongyang cites upcoming U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises scheduled to begin on March 4, as "reckless war moves" designed to "unleash a total war on the Korean peninsula with a pre-emptive nuclear strike".
"The situation of the Korean Peninsula is reaching the brink of a nuclear war," the statement, issued by the official Korean Central News Agency, says.
The North also called on South Koreans to "wage a nationwide anti-U.S. and anti-war struggle to frustrate the U.S. moves for a nuclear war."
The United States denies it has any plans to attack North Korea, consistently saying it is seeking a diplomatic and political solution to the increasing tensions sparked by Pyongyang's decision to reactivate its nuclear program.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Tuesday wrapped up a four-day tour of Japan, China and South Korea during which he lobbied Asian leaders to support a multi-lateral approach to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Powell repeated the U.S. position that it had no intention of invading North Korea and had no plans to impose fresh economic sanctions on the impoverished communist nation.
While Japan and South Korea indicated they might support a regional initiative to sway Pyongyang, China -- a key ally and aid donor to the North -- appeared to remain unconvinced.
China says the United States must deal with Pyongyang equally on a one-to-one basis.
"We believe diplomatic, political pressure still has a role to play. And there are countries who have considerable influence with the North Koreans who will continue to apply pressure," Powell said Tuesday.
"We also made it clear that if they begin reprocessing (nuclear material), it changes the entire political landscape. And we're making sure that is communicated to them in a number of channels."
Powell would not be drawn on how would Washington react if Pyongyang did begin reprocessing but did say that the U.S. had "no intention of invading" North Korea.
Tensions on the peninsula have been ratcheting up over the past few weeks with North Korea becoming increasingly provocative.
On Monday, the North fired a short-range missile into the Sea of Japan, or East Sea, an act many believe was designed to upstage the inauguration of new South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. (Roh sworn in)
Last week, a North Korean MiG-19 fighter briefly flew into South Korean air space. (MiG incursion)
The North has also threatened to abandon the 1953 armistice that ended the fighting of the Korean War.
Powell described North Korea's missile launch as "not surprising", saying the test appeared to be of an old, short-range missile system and was "fairly innocuous."
Roh himself avoided mention of the incident at his swearing in, but said the region was at an "historical turning point."
He called the security environment "rather unsettling" and urged Pyongyang to "abandon nuclear development."
"If it renounces its nuclear development program, we and the international community will offer them many things that they want," he said.
Roh added, "This is the time to make a determined effort to safeguard peace and have it firmly rooted on the peninsula."
In another development Tuesday, Pyongyang accused Washington of flying a spy plane into North Korean airspace.
KCNA said the flights were a "premeditated move to find an opportunity to mount a preemptive attack" on North Korea. ('Spy' flights)