N Korea hints at nuclear treaty withdrawal


North Korea has for the first time indicated that its membership of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) could be the next victim of a deepening crisis over its nuclear weapons ambitions.

In a statement early this morning, the North's foreign ministry shifted responsibility on to the US for the collapse of the 1994 Agreed Framework accord under which Pyongyang agreed to freeze its nuclear program and to stay within the nuclear safeguard accord.

The Agreed Framework (AF) helped North Korea find itself "in a special status" where its withdrawal from the NPT was suspended until the construction of lightwater nuclear reactors by a US-led consortium, the statement said.

"And the US began ditching even the AF, thus putting this special status of ours in peril," the statement said. North Korea announced its withdrawal from the NPT in March 1993, triggering a nuclear crisis between the two Koreas which have been technically at war since their 1950-1953 conflict.

Three months later the Stalinist country suspended its threatened NPT withdrawal after the US agreed to start dialogue on improving ties with North Korea.

The statement also blasted Washington for trying to destroy North Korea "with nuclear weapons, gripped by the Cold War way of thinking, going against the basic trend of the new century heading for reconciliation and peace."