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N. Korea Says Hard-Line U.S. Policy Could Spark War

Reuters, Thursday 19 April 2001, 4:47 AM ET

SEOUL (Reuters)—North Korea warned Thursday that the hard-line policy of President Bush and a planned military exercise with South Korea could lead to a potentially explosive confrontation.

The hostile and hard-line policy pursued by the present U.S. authorities...is pushing the situation to confrontation...and putting the belligerent relations between the two countries in danger of explosion, state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary.

If a war breaks out in Korea, it will be the most merciless and destructive war in the world history of war, it said.

The commentary was released by the Korean Central News Agency, the North’s official news agency.

The North Korean warning came as the United States and South Korea were set to begin a military exercise on training and evaluating command capabilities for receiving U.S. forces from outside the country.

The April 20-26 exercise will involve about 10,000 of the 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.

Pyongyang has blasted the exercise several times this week as provocative, reverting to rhetoric that was common before South Korean President Kim Dae-jung held a landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il last year.

Relations between Washington and Pyongyang, which improved dramatically toward the end of the Clinton administration, have worsened sharply since Bush took office.

In a recent summit with the South Korean president, Bush called off proposed missile talks with North Korea, telling Kim that he did not believe Pyongyang would live up to its pledge to scrap its nuclear weapons program.

Earlier Thursday, a high-ranking official at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency said North Korea probably possesses one or two nuclear bombs and possibly biological weapons.

Indeed, the North probably has one or two nuclear bombs—and it may also have biological weapons alongside its chemical ones, Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin said in a speech.

The two Koreas, currently divided by a heavily-fortified border that blocks all civilian contact, are technically at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armed truce.