US plans to realign troops drew
harsh criticism from North
Korea's army

The Korean People’s Army (KPA) said in a statement that any naval or aerial blockade against North Korea would be considered a “complete breach” of the armistice agreement that ended the 1950-1953 Korean war.

 

In response, North Korea would not hesitate to inflict “strong and merciless retaliatory measures”.

 

The lengthy statement criticised US efforts to increase military spending by $11 billion over the next four years in South Korea.

 

It also denounced US plans to re-deploy troops on the peninsula.

 

Chinese mediation

 

The statement came as a Chinese vice foreign minister Wang Yi began a four-day trip to the United States to discuss North Korea’s nuclear issue, according to ministry spokesman Kong Quan.

 

Quan said that Yi would also urge Washington to agree to join another round of tripartite talks with Beijing and Pyongyang.

 

“The key at this stage is that the basic talks that began in April should be continued”, he said.

 

The spokesman said the talks were necessary to the “de-nuclearisation of the peninsula and to maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.”

 

Quan refused to say whether China would suggest a date for a new round of talks, or whether North Korea had agreed to participate.

 

He said, however, that Beijing and Pyongyang “maintain close contact at various levels”.

 

Wang’s visit to Washington comes just days before South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun goes to Beijing to discuss with Chinese officials North Korea’s nuclear issue.

 

New US accusations

 

Meanwhile, US intelligence officials accused Pyongyang of developing technology that could make nuclear warheads small enough for the country’s missiles, The New York Times reported.

 

Officials based their latest accusation on a report they received from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

 

The officials told the newspaper that US satellites had located an advanced nuclear testing site in an area of North Korea, called Youngdoktong.