El Greco | 09.04.2003 17:57
NORTH Korea regards the US-led attack on Iraq as confirmation of its fear that it is next on Washington's list of targets, a UN official has said.
Maurice Strong, a special adviser to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, said he was in Pyongyang for discussions with North Korean leaders on March 20, when the US-led assault was launched.
"They told us it was a confirmation the United States does intend to act and confirm their beliefs that they are next on the list," he said today.
"North Korea is concerned by the threat they feel from the United States. For them security is the main issue."
Asked about Pyongyang's withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Strong said North Korean leaders felt Washington had violated the treaty by threatening Pyongyang.
"They have the feeling they have been threatened. That is the logic of their position.
"Some countries are bellicose in their statements.
"None of the parties wants a war, but they are preparing for it."
The UN Security Council will discuss the North Korean nuclear crisis this week, but is already torn by debate on whether the meeting should even be taking place.
While diplomats said the closed door session was unlikely to lead to concrete punitive measures against the Stalinist state, North Korea has warned that any sanctions would be taken as "a declaration of war".
The North is sticking to its demand for direct talks with the United States, which in turn is trying to force other nations to take a greater role in disarming the government in Pyongyang.
The United States has been locked in a crisis with North Korea since October when it accused Pyongyang of violating a 1994 accord to halt its nuclear programs.
North Korea has demanded a non-aggression pact with the United States to settle the crisis simmering over a decision last month to reactivate a mothballed nuclear power plant capable of producing weapons grade plutonium. Washington has turned down the Pyongyang offer.
But President George W Bush and other top US officials have denied they are considering military options to force North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.
Washington believes Pyongyang has one or two nuclear bombs and could make several more within six months.