Vol. 4 Num 36 Wed. July 02, 2003  

N Korea threatens to abandon armistice

North Korea threatened on Tuesday to abandon the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, and warned that it will take "merciless retaliatory measures" in response to any economic blockade.

US efforts to pressure the communist state to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program have pushed Korea to "the crossroads of war or peace," said the North Korean military's representative at Panmunjom, a truce village where the UN Command and the North's military meet to oversee the armistice.

His statement was carried by the North's state-run KCNA news agency. KCNA did not give his name.

North Korea has recently stepped up its anti-US rhetoric in an apparent attempt to force the United States to negotiate a dispute over the North's nuclear ambitions.

"It is, in fact, hardly possible to preserve the ceasefire in Korea by the unilateral efforts of the Korean People's Army side," the representative said.

North Korea has often threatened to scrap the armistice, the key legal document that keeps an uneasy peace on the divided Korean Peninsula. It has called the armistice a "dead document" or a "useless piece of paper."

The United States and its allies are pressuring North Korea to abandon its suspected development of nuclear weapons. In recent weeks, they began cracking down on alleged North Korean trading in illicit drugs, counterfeit money and weapons.

North Korea calls the moves part of a US plan to impose an international siege on the isolated state and says they violate the armistice.

On Tuesday, the North said that if Washington applies sanctions or bolsters troops in the region, it "will promptly regard it as a complete breach of the armistice agreement by the US side and will immediately take strong and merciless retaliatory measures."