SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea warned yesterday that its sovereignty is at stake in the standoff over its nuclear development, while the U.S. ambassador in South Korea said the North has an “irrational fear” of the United States.

North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Washington’s rejection of direct talks was “little short of refusing to solve the nuclear issue.”

Washington wants to resolve the issue through talks involving other countries, but North Korea insists the dispute is only with the United States and wants a nonaggression treaty with Washington.

“The nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula is a very crucial problem related to who beats whom,” the North Korean newspaper said. “It will decide whether the DPRK’s sovereignty will be trampled down by the U.S. or protected.” DPRK is short for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

North Korea accuses the United States of inciting the tension over its suspected nuclear weapons programs as a pretext for an invasion.

In Seoul, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Hubbard said North Korea’s actions posed a threat to worldwide stability because of the threat of nuclear proliferation. He repeated the Bush administration’s stance that Washington wants to solve the nuclear dispute peacefully, but all options are open.

“They seem to be sustained only by an irrational fear of the United States, and an equally irrational adulation of their own leadership, both of which they have been taught for decades in complete isolation from the rest of the world,” Hubbard said.

A South Korean presidential adviser said North Korea has shown no signs of reactivating a nuclear reprocessing facility that could enable the production of bombs within months.

There are concerns that North Korea’s next step in the standoff will be to reactivate the reprocessing plant in a bid to pressure Washington into negotiations. U.S. officials say the facility could produce enough weapons-grade plutonium from spent fuel rods to make several more nuclear bombs.

“North Korea is not showing any movement to reactivate its nuclear reprocessing lab and test-fire a ballistic missile,” said Ra Jong-il, senior security adviser to President Roh Moo-hyun.

Ra cited intelligence reports from Japan, which has been closely watching North Korea. Japan has deployed a destroyer with surveillance equipment near the North because of fears that it might test a ballistic missile. In 1998, North Korea fired a missile over Japan and into the Pacific.

Ra’s comments were reported by Kim Man-soo, a presidential spokesman.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors were expelled from the North, said it couldn’t say for sure what was happening at the nuclear facilities.

The Korean nuclear crisis flared in October, when U.S. officials said North Korea admitted having a secret nuclear weapons program. Washington and its allies suspended fuel shipments; Pyongyang retaliated by expelling U.N. monitors, withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and restarting a nuclear reactor.

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