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. NKorea says war games could impede nuclear deal
SEOUL, Aug 20 (AFP) Aug 20, 2008
North Korea Wednesday stepped up its criticism of a major US-South Korean military exercise, saying it could impede progress on an international nuclear disarmament deal.

The annual exercise involving tens of thousands of troops began Monday south of the border. Seoul and Washington say it is purely defensive while Pyongyang says it is aimed at starting a new war on the peninsula.

"This situation compels the DPRK (North Korea) to heighten vigilance against such unjust demands as the 'verification in line with the international standard' recently claimed by the US as regards the nuclear issue," said a foreign ministry spokesman.

"The DPRK will increase its war deterrent in every way as long as the US and its followers continue posing military threats to it."

The North, which tested an atomic weapon in October 2006, describes its nuclear programme as part of that deterrent. It has made similar threats in the past.

The US and North Korea cannot agree on ways to verify a nuclear declaration which the North submitted in June as part of a six-nation disarmament deal.

The North will "actively take corresponding practical measures" against the war games, the spokesman said as quoted by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The exercise is a clear proof of Washington's hostile policy, he said.

The US refuses to remove the North from a terrorism blacklist until the verification issue is solved.

It reportedly wants full access by inspectors to cover not just North Korea's admitted plutonium programme but also its alleged secret uranium enrichment programme and proliferation activities.

On Monday the North criticised the US for failing to act, saying Washington was not honouring its side of the deal.

South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator Kim Sook urged China Wednesday to help resolve the dispute and called for patience.

"I think China's constructive role is required," Kim told reporters after returning from talks with his US and Japanese counterparts.

China hosts the six-nation talks also involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia, and is a crucial source of food and fuel for the impoverished North.

Kim said the US and North Korea remain divided over proposed verification protocol details but refused to elaborate.

"It will take more time (to resolve the issue) but there is no fixed deadline," Kim said. "Consulting patiently with North Korea is necessary."

North Korea last year agreed to abandon its atomic programmes in return for energy aid and diplomatic and security guarantees.

It is disabling its main plutonium-producing nuclear complex ahead of the final phase of the agreement, in which it should dismantle the plants and hand over all nuclear weapons and atomic material.

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