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N. Korea refuses nuke inspections

Joint war games are a major source of angst for North Korea.
Joint war games are a major source of angst for North Korea.

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The fighting in Iraq is fueling the growing tension on the Korean peninsula. CNN's Mike Chinoy reports. (March 24)
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PYONGYANG, North Korea (CNN) -- North Korea will not concede to international pressures for nuclear inspections, fearing the same fate as Iraq, according to a newspaper editorial published Saturday.

"The DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) would have already met the same miserable fate as Iraq's had it compromised its revolutionary principle and accepted the demand... for 'nuclear inspection' and disarmament," the ruling party daily Rodong Sinmun said in its commentary.

"The DPRK has nothing to fear on Earth and a strong pluck as it has the world's most viable army-based policy and a powerful means for self-defense."

Pyongyang's remarks came one day after U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said a "bold initiative" similar to President Richard Nixon's China initiative in the early 1970s is an option.

But he added it wouldn't happen until multilateral discussions find a solution to the nuclear crisis on the peninsula.(Full story)

The nuclear standoff emerged in October last year when U.S. officials said North Korea had admitted to a secretive nuclear program, and has escalated since then.

U.S. President George W. Bush has bracketed the isolated Stalinist state together with Iraq and Iran in an "axis of evil," accused of seeking to acquire and spread weapons of mass destruction.

Pyongyang wants bilateral talks with the United States, while Washington insists that other nations in the region -- specifically China, Japan and South Korea -- must also participate.

Nixon reached out to China in the middle of his first term, dramatically changing the face of U.S.-East Asian relations.

After meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan, Powell said the United States would "be in close coordination with North Korea" as the nations seek that elusive solution.

"Some suggest we're distracted because of Iraq," Powell said, "but that's not the case. We are spending a great deal of time ... exploring a variety of options and avenues."

Troubles with North Korea mounted when Pyongyang declared it would restart a nuclear reactor capable of producing weapons grade plutonium and kicked out U.N. nuclear monitors.

North Korea has pulled out of regular meetings with the U.S. military as a protest to the war games.
North Korea has pulled out of regular meetings with the U.S. military as a protest to the war games.

A month after the monitors left, North Korea withdrew from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, and last month it restarted the reactor -- which could create the plutonium within a year.

Yoon, according to Powell, "presented us with a road map of things we might do... and I found it to be an interesting approach which we will be examining among other things we might do in preparing for the (South Korea-U.S.) summit this spring."

Earlier this week, the North Korean army announced it would no longer participate in weekly meetings at a joint security area set up on the border between North and South.

Pyongyang also said it would have "no option" but to stop honoring its commitments to the 1953 Korean War armistice because of "persistent war moves" by the United States in and around the Korean Peninsula.

The United States and South Korea have been moving ahead with annual joint military exercises this month, which the North called a "grave situation."

North Korea has issued similar statements in recent weeks, all accusing the United States of violating the 1953 agreement and threatening to pull out of it.

In recent weeks, both sides have escalated their military movements. North Korean fighter jets intercepted a U.S. spy plane earlier this month in international airspace off the coast.

In addition to the military exercises with the South, the United States deployed bombers to Guam as a message to North Korea the U.S. military is not distracted by the war in Iraq.

Some long-time Korea observers in the Bush administration have begun to voice concern privately that such moves could lead to a military showdown on the Korean Peninsula, according to several administration sources.

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