n. korea 'will win nuke war'

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    SEOUL, South Korea -- In another verbal barrage aimed at Washington, North Korea says it will win any nuclear conflict with the United States thanks to Pyongyang's "army-first" political system.

    "Victory in a nuclear conflict will be ours and the red flag of army-first politics will flutter ever more vigorously," a North Korean state radio broadcast said, as reported by South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

    "Our victory is certain and the future ever more radiant."

    North Korea is the world's most heavily militarized society, with a million-strong army and a military budget expenditure of over $5 billion annually -- equal to a little over 30 percent of North Korea's gross domestic product, according to CIA figures.

    But the Stalinist state has been besieged by drought, famine and economic difficulties in recent years, leading to questions over the functionality of its military might.

    The latest vitriolic salvo follows a number of war warnings from Pyongyang and claims the U.S. is preparing to strike the North.

    The Bush administration has said it has no plans for military action, but the communist state has been pressing for a non-aggression pact as well as direct dialogue with the U.S.

    The standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons program began in October when the U.S. said Pyongyang admitted to secretly pursuing plans to enrich uranium, violating a 1994 agreement.

    North Korea then dismissed weapons inspectors, pulled out of the international nuclear anti-proliferation treaty and restarted its nuclear facilities.

    Pyongyang insists it has plans only to generate electricity due to an energy shortfall brought on by the U.S. halting its fuel oil supplies to North Korea.

    The communist state also maintains that its dispute is only with Washington and needs to be solved with two-way, face-to-face dialogue.

    International diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis are continuing. The U.N. is now set to take a more aggressive role after its nuclear watchdog agency referred the matter to the U.N. Security Council.

    The Security Council has the power to impose sanctions on North Korea -- something Pyongyang has said would mount to a declaration of war.

    The U.S., however, wants to push the U.N. for a condemnation of Pyongyang, rather than sanctions.

    North Korea's traditional allies China and Russia – both permament members of the council – are pressing for a diplomatic solution. (Peaceful solution sought)

    In other developments, Britain's Sunday Telegraph has reported that North Korea plans to build four new nuclear power plants.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has insisted nuclear weapons are not being produced at its existing facilities and he would not use the new plants to do so either, the report said. (Full story)

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