South Korea cautions against North's nuclear threat

October 3, 2003 9:30 AM

Swiss Info

SEOUL (Reuters) - President Roh Moo-hyun says South Korea must weigh very carefully whether to send combat troops to Iraq given the
risks of a sudden worsening of the crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons plans.

"What is of most concern is that unexpected things might break out once we decide to send troops (to Iraq) such as a failure to hold a
second round of six-way talks or North Korea taking a tough stand with nuclear arms and missile issues," Roh told reporters on Friday.

Washington has asked Seoul for combat troops to help stabilise post-war Iraq, with one South Korean newspaper quoting a U.S. official as
saying Washington would like 5,000 troops and a decision by mid-October.

The country's National Security Council said on Tuesday that a fundamental factor to be taken into account must be how much progress is
made in defusing the nuclear problem.

"In view of this, we need a thorough investigation and study" of the troops issue, the president said. His office issued a statement
confirming his remarks.

The United States, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan are seeking to draw North Korea back to the negotiating table for more talks on
ending its nuclear programme. There was an inconclusive first round of talks in Beijing in August.

Since then Pyongyang has stepped up its sabre-rattling pronouncements.

The official KCNA news agency said on Friday North Korea had successfully finished reprocessing some 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods in
June and had switched technology to enhance its use of plutonium extracted from the rods for possible atomic weapons.

Regional analysts said they believed such statements were a pre-talks tactic.

Meanwhile, the head of a South Korean delegation sent to Iraq to study the security situation there said on Friday they had felt more secure
than expected and residents had welcomed them.