South Korean president urges North Korea to give up nuclear ambitions

Wednesday, June 25th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ South Korea marked the 53rd anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War on Wednesday by urging North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for international aid.

President Roh Moo-hyun said South Korea could never tolerate North Korea's suspected development of nuclear weapons but that the dispute should be resolved peacefully.

``North Korea will receive wide assistance from the international community if it gives up its nuclear programs,'' Roh said in a speech to 800 Korean War veterans at a Seoul hotel. ``North Korea should not miss this opportunity.''

Noting that millions of lives were lost during the Korean War, Roh said everything should be done to prevent another war on the Korean Peninsula.

``Such a tragedy should never be repeated,'' he told Korean, American, Filipino and Turkish veterans. ``Everything we achieved will be brought to naught.''

Also Wednesday, about 60 Korean and U.S. military chaplains took part in a wreath-laying ceremony to remember the dead and injured at the Korean War museum in Seoul.

Meanwhile, in the North's capital, Pyongyang, more than a million people gathered at plazas and streets Wednesday for anti-U.S. protests, ``shaking with towering hatred and resentment against the U.S. imperialists,'' Pyongyang's state-run KCNA news agency said.

North Korean newspapers also marked the war anniversary with calls ``for shattering the U.S. imperialists' move to ignite a nuclear war'' on the peninsula, KCNA said in a separate dispatch.

The latest dispute flared in October, when U.S. officials said the communist country admitted it had a clandestine nuclear program in violation of a 1994 agreement with Washington.

Washington and its allies cut off free oil shipments _ part of the 1994 deal _ to the North. Pyongyang has since expelled U.N. nuclear inspectors, quit the global nuclear arms control treaty and restarted its frozen atomic facilities.

The Korean War started with a Northern invasion on June 25, 1950. It ended in an armistice three years later. Today, the inter-Korean border remains the world's most heavily armed.