N. Korea angered at exercises

North Korea warned the United States and South Korea yesterday that joint military exercises planned on the peninsula this week could spark a war.

North Korea, defying international calls to allay concerns over its suspected nuclear weapons program, said the exercise set to begin tomorrow was a dangerous gamble at a time of heightened tension.

The warning was issued against a background of international threats to seek UN approval for economic sanctions against the isolated communist state. ``It is clear that the war exercises to be staged ... are a dangerous play with fire designed to increase the tensions on the Korean peninsula and, furthermore, to light the train of another war, a nuclear war,'' it said.

Tensions between South Korea and North Korea, whose 1950-53 conflict ended in a cease-fire rather than a peace treaty, have increased in recent weeks as the nuclear crisis has deepened. With more than 30,000 US troops stationed on the peninsula under a defense pact with Seoul, President Clinton reaffirmed last week that an act of war against South Korea would be seen as an act of war against the US.

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