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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

South Korea on Alert As North Warns U.S.

SEOUL -- South Korean President Kim Young-sam ordered his armed forces on defensive alert Tuesday in a crisis over North Korea's nuclear program while Pyongyang said the deployment of U.S. antimissile systems in the South could lead to war.


A South Korean presidential spokesman said Kim told army, navy and air force chiefs to heighten defenses because of rising tension over the North's refusal to permit full inspection of its nuclear sites, where the West fears it is making a bomb.


North Korea meanwhile accused the United States of provocation "further aggravating tensions on the Korean peninsula," the British Broadcasting Corp quoted North Korean radio as saying.


"The order by President Bill Clinton to deploy Patriot missiles in South Korea is a grave threat to us. This clearly shows that the United States is leading the Korean peninsula to the situation of war."


The radio said the United States had strengthened its "military threat" to the North and put pressure on Pyongyang by reviving plans for the Team Spirit 1994 military exercises with the South.


The United States decided Monday to deploy the missiles in South Korea and revived plans for Team Spirit.


Officials in South Korea said the Patriots would be deployed at key sites around Seoul, barely 48 kilometers from the border with the North.


Foreign Minister Han Sung-joo said Seoul would not resort to hardline policies in efforts to resolve the nuclear crisis.


"At this stage, emotional hardline policies towards the North will hamper efforts by the international community to settle the nuclear problem," Han told a meeting of leaders of the ruling Democratic Liberal Party.


Seoul fears the North, reeling from the collapse of communist allies and a slumping economy, might launch a military attack on the South if driven into a corner, analysts say.


Han said dialogue between the United States and North Korea was a "key factor in checking the North's destructive acts as well as in inducing the North to allow nuclear inspections."


Washington called off high-level talks with the North, originally scheduled for Monday in Geneva, after Pyongyang refused to allow full inspections of its declared nuclear sites.


President Kim would seek the active help of China, North Korea's only major ally, in getting Pyongyang to end its nuclear ambitions during talks in Beijing next week, Han said.


But in Beijing on Tuesday, Premier Li Peng reaffirmed China's opposition to applying pressure on Pyongyang, saying sanctions or other measures would inflame tensions further.


But Russia, once a close ally of North Korea, said Monday that it backed international pressure on Pyongyang to force it to allow unhindered inspection of its nuclear sites.


Han told reporters Seoul would support UN sanctions against the North if efforts to resolve the nuclear row through dialogue ended in failure.


On Monday, 25 countries on the 35-member International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors adopted a resolution urging North Korea to drop its resistance to full inspections.