After N Korea’s nuclear test, South Korea joins US-led PSI

Two Koreas

South Korea on Tuesday responded to North Korea's second nuclear test by joining a US-led security drive, a move Pyongyang says would be tantamount to a "declaration of war".

North Korea has warned that South Korea's full participation in the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a naval exercise whose primary targets include the reclusive state, would be tantamount to a declaration of war and that it would take "stern" counter-measures.

South Korean officials rushed to stem speculation that Seoul's decision to join the PSI was in apparent retaliation against Monday's nuclear test by North Korea, Yonhap news agency reported.

"The PSI is part of global efforts to curb the flow of weapons of mass destruction," Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-ju explained.

"Seoul's participation does not specifically target North Korea nor was it decided in consideration of current inter-Korean relations."

The PSI, launched in 2003 by then US President George W Bush, is an international effort to interdict the transfer of banned weapons and weapons technology. The PSI currently involves more than 90 countries.

South Korea has had observer status in the PSI, but the previous government had put off full membership in an apparent bid not to anger Pyongyang.

North Korea's official newspaper, The Rodong Sinmun, last week said South Korea's participation would be "nothing but a gambit to conceal their belligerence and justify a new northward invasion scheme."

But North Korean watchers are concerned that Pyongyang may use the decision as an excuse for further provocations, including military action.

Pyongyang warned on March 30, as Seoul was mulling its participation in the PSI, that South Korea "should never forget that Seoul is just 50 km away from the Military Demarcation Line."

Seoul had been dragging its feet making a final decision on the issue, fearing an expanded role in the US-led drive could hamper efforts to free a South Korean worker detained by the North in March on charges of criticising its political system.

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