KOREAN PENINSULA ON ALERT South Korean President Kim Young Sam ordered his country's armed forces on defensive alert March 22 but prepared a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a crisis over North Korea's nuclear program. Seoul is concerned that the North, reeling from the collapse of communist allies and a slumping economy, might launch a military attack on the South if driven into a corner, analysts say. Washington called off high-level talks with the North on March 21 after Pyongyang refused to allow full inspections of its declared nuclear sites. A spokesman said President Kim would seek the active help of China, North Korea's only major ally. But in Beijing March 22, Premier Li Peng reaffirmed China's opposition to applying pressure, saying sanctions would inflame tensions further. On March 21, the International Atomic Energy Agency urged North Korea to drop its resistance to inspections, and the US decided to deploy Patriot defense missiles in South Korea and revived plans for joint military exercises. European Union

Britain and Spain on March 22 resisted pressure from their European Union partners to agree on changes in the voting rules, jeopardizing the group's plans to add new members next year. Foreign ministers of the 12 nations headed for their third failure in as many weeks in an effort to break a deadlock over the issue. Britain and Spain want to make it difficult for smaller nations to achieve a ``blocking minority'' on policy votes. Talks will likely have to resume this weekend. Gore in Brazil

Brazil and the US on March 21 signed a scientific cooperation agreement that will allow Brazil to acquire US technology for supercomputers, nuclear power, and a rocket guidance system. The signing took place during a visit by Vice President Al Gore, Jr. who was ending a two-day South American tour. The agreement is a seven-year extension, until 2001. The US had suspended the agreement in 1991 during a trade row. Software merger

Computer networking giant Novell announced a merger March 21 with WordPerfect, creating one of the world's largest software companies. In addition, Novell said it would purchase Borland International Inc.'s ``Quattro Pro'' spreadsheet business for about $145 million. Novell is a leading computer networking company.

Attack indictments

Tonya Harding participated in the plot to injure rival figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, a grand jury concluded March 21 as it indicted Shawn Eckardt, Shane Stant, and Derrick Smith for conspiring in the attack that occurred two months ago. Ms. Harding was not indicted because she reached an earlier plea bargain.

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