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. North Korea threatens to turn Japan into "nuclear sea of fire"
SEOUL (AFP) Sep 23, 2004
North Korea threatened Thursday to turn Japan into a "nuclear sea of fire" if it comes under attack from the United States.

"If the United States ignites a nuclear war, the US military bases in Japan would serve as a detonating fuse to turn Japan into a nuclear sea of fire," the North's ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in a Korean-language article monitored by South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

It was one of the most searing North Korean threats directed against Japan, Yonhap said. The Stalinist North has accused Tokyo of supporting what it sees as a US campaign to isolate it.

In an English-language article published by Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency, Rodong accused the United States of converting Japan into "strategic vantage points" for a pre-emptive attack on North Korea.

"It plans to use Japan as an advance base in hurling into the Korean peninsula a task force from its mainland and other areas in case of emergency," the paper said.

Japan and the US, along with the two Koreas, China and Russia have held three rounds of talks on curbing the North's nuclear weapons drive in return for diplomatic concessions and possible economic aid.

A fourth round was scheduled for this month but Pyongyang has refused to return to the negotiating table, citing Washington's hostile policy and South Korea's nuclear experiments.

The North hardened its position after the South disclosed its own experiments, which it says were for resaerch purposes only.

The dispute over North Korea's nuclear ambitions flared in October 2002 when Washington accused Pyongyang of operating a nuclear weapons program based on enriched uranium in violation of a 1994 agreement.

Pyongyang has denied running the uranium-based program but has restarted its plutonium program.

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