South Korea said it was prepared for war if diplomacy failed over the North's nuclear weapons ambitions. Lee Jun, the Defence Minister, told parliament: "If the North Korean nuclear problem cannot be solved peacefully and America attacks North Korea, war on the Korean peninsula will be unavoidable. Our army is prepared for the worst-case scenario."
James Kelly, the American Assistant Secretary of State, said in Beijing the whole international community agreed the Korean peninsula must be free of nuclear weapons but he held out little hope of a speedy outcome.
"It's going to be a slow process to make sure we achieve this in the right way," he said, after talks with Chinese leaders. There was no quick-fix solution to securing a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, Mr Kelly added. He is on trip through east Asia to rally support for America's handling of the stand-off.
Mr Kelly had just learnt that North Korea had rebuffed signals that America would consider supplying aid to the state if it abandoned its nuclear programme. The foreign ministry statement said: "The US loud-mouthed supply of energy and food aid are like a painted cake-pie in the sky, as they are possible only after the DPRK is totally disarmed."
Ari Fleischer, a White House spokesman, dismissed the statement as unhelpful bluster, and the comments unfortunate. "We still have not received any official word from North Korea," he told reporters. North Korea has shown no sign so far of drawing back from the confrontation in which it has thrown out United Nations nuclear inspectors, moved to restart atomic plants that can make weapons-grade plutonium and withdrawn from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
This is despite a perceptible softening in Washington's stance, a reflection of the American view that diplomacy offers the only solution, and also its eagerness to maintain its focus on Iraq. The ground switched to London this week, where British, American and French officials met to discuss solutions.
For all Pyongyang's tough rhetoric, the signs are that North Korea also wants to resolve the crisis diplomatically, so long as it can secure aid and assurances on its security.
"And there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him." 112. Al-Ikhls or At-Tauhd The land which defies the super-poweres; Romans, Mongols, Russia, British, Russia, who is next?Khuday Pa Aman