U.S. fears unfounded, say Russia, N. Korea

MOSCOW, JULY 20. Russia and North Korea pressed their opposition to Washington's anti-missile defence plans in a strong statement on Thursday, saying U.S. concerns about a possible threat from Pyongyang were ``groundless''.

The Russian President, Mr. Vladimir Putin, was welcomed to Pyongyang on Wednesday by the North Korean leader, Mr. Kim Jong- Il, on the first visit there by a Russian or Soviet leader.

The two, who apparently shared a good rapport during extended talks, sought to undermine the U.S. rationale for the missile shield when Mr. Kim offered to abandon his country's missile programme if other states supplied rockets to explore space.

The U.S. wants to set up a nationwide anti-missile shield, or National Missile Defence (NMD), because of a threat it sees from ``rogue states'' among which it numbers North Korea. That would involve amending the 1972 U.S.-Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty.

A joint declaration, published by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency, dismissed the U.S. argument.

``The DPRK and Russia consider that the results of the analysis of the present international realities prove the missile threat from some states cited as a pretext to justify their projected amendment of the ABM treaty to be totally groundless,'' the two leaders said in the declaration.

- Reuters