North Korea threatens military action against South Korea (Lead)

May 27th, 2009 - 2:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Seoul, May 27 (DPA) North Korea Wednesday threatened military action against Seoul, one day after South Korea joined a US-led initiative to intercept ships carrying illicit weapons, further escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The Stalinist state said it felt no longer bound by the 1950-53 Korean War armistice and would respond militarily to any foreign attempt to inspect its ships.

In a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, North Korean army officials accused South Korea’s president of treason and said: “As declared to the world, our revolutionary forces will consider the full participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) by the Lee Myung Bak group of traitors as a declaration of war against us.”

The security of South Korean and US ships along the western inter-Korean sea border in the Yellow Sea could no longer be guaranteed, North Korea added.

With the armistice revoked, the peninsula would soon be returned “to a state of war”, the North’s military mission to the joint security area in the Korean Demilitarised Zone said.

On Tuesday, Seoul formally joined the PSI initiative to stop ships on the high seas suspected of carrying contraband weapons of mass destruction, a day after Pyongyang carried out its second nuclear test.

Seoul had previously hesitated to join, saying the move could create unnecessary tension with North Korea, which is under suspicion of trafficking weapons, drugs and counterfeit money and is a prime target of the PSI.

In a related development, Pyongyang fired a short-range missile Wednesday across the Sea of Japan, its fifth such launch since Monday’s nuclear test, which was unanimously condemned by the UN Security Council in New York.

North Korea also appears to have restarted its nuclear reprocessing facility at Yongbyon, 100 km north of Pyongyang, to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

Analysis of satellite images indicated that the facility, which had been mothballed by North Korea after a denuclearisation deal signed in February 2007, has been restarted, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper said, quoting informed sources.

A site where the North Korea stored the spent fuel rods was opened several times in April and, since early May, steam has been rising from the fuel-production plant, the Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified source as saying.

Pyongyang announced in April that it had rekindled reprocessing plutonium from spent fuel rods after criticism by the Security Council of a North Korean rocket launch April 5. Despite international warnings, North Korea carried out that launch, which was criticised as being a test of its long-range ballistic missile technology.

Meanwhile, in New York, Russia’s ambassador to the UN said Moscow, a traditional ally of North Korea, plans to support a tough resolution against its nuclear test while saying it was still too early to discuss details.

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