By Song Jung-a in Seoul, The Financial Times, March 15 2005
North Korea said Tuesday it would boost its nuclear arsenal to deter an attack by the US, condemning the upcoming joint military exercises by the US and South Korea. The statement came as Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, left for Asia to discuss ways to get the communist state to return to the six-party talks on dismantling its nuclear programme.
“The DPRK will take necessary counter-measures, including bolstering its nuclear arsenal to cope with the extremely hostile attempt of the US to bring down the system in the DPRK,” a spokesman for the North's foreign ministry told its official Korean Central News Agency. DPRK is short for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name. The US and South Korea are scheduled to start joint military exercises on Saturday. North Korea denounced the regular drills as preparations for an invasion of the country. About 33,000 US troops are stationed in South Korea to deter a possible attack by the North.
Last month, Pyongyang declared that it had built nuclear weapons and was pulling out of the six-nation talks, also involving the US, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea. But it later backtracked on its declaration, offering to discuss its nuclear weapons programme if Washington showed “sincerity”. The latest nuclear threat is seen as the North's attempt to increase its bargaining power at the next round of the multilateral talks.-----------------