02/19/2009, 00.00
KOREA - UNITED STATES
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Pyongyang ready for "all-out confrontation" with Seoul and Washington

The statement, released by the official North Korean news agency KCNA, comes as U.S. secretary of state Clinton visits South Korea. Analysts say that the threat is intended to draw the attention of the United States to the nuclear question, and aid to the North. In China, a scholar has disappeared who released news about Kim Jong-il's health condition.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - North Korea is ramping up its war of words against the South, issuing new bellicose statements. Today Pyongyang reiterated that its troops are "fully ready for an all-out confrontation" with Seoul, where American secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to arrive soon. At the center of the talks are bilateral agreements with the South Korean government, aimed at reinforcing economic cooperation between the two countries, and the question of North Korea's nuclear program.

The North Korean regime, meanwhile, is accusing President Lee Myung-bak of using "nonexistent nuclear and missile threats" from the North as the pretext for an invasion. The South Korean government is insisting on its policy of dialogue, and is confirming that it respects all of the agreements reached between the two countries, including the points ratified by previous governments during the historic inter-Korean summits of 2000 and 2007. Seoul is also asking North Korea to return to the negotiating table and resume the peace process.

Some analysts claim that North Korea is using the tactic of threats against the South - including the upcoming launch of a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead - in order to draw the attention of the Obama administration to negotiations over the nuclear program and aid to North Korea. Pyongyang is denying this officially, stressing last Monday that it "has no need to draw anyone's attention." This morning, the official news agency KCNA released a statement in which it labels the South Korean government a "group of traitors." The communist regime also warns that "the [North] Korean People's Army is fully ready for an all-out confrontation."

From China, finally, news is coming of the "mysterious" disappearance of a Chinese scholar. Jin Xide, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is believed to have been arrested by security agents for releasing news about the health condition of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il. Jin was last seen in mid-January; anonymous sources for the Institute confirm that the professor was under investigation for "leaking state secrets." In China, this charge can lead to the death penalty.

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