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  Monday   June 9   2003       08: 26 AM


US troops to quit Korean border zone

For the first time since the Korean war the United States is to withdraw its troops from the border between North and South, a redeployment which raises the prospect of a US strike on Pyongyang's nuclear facilities.

In 1994 the White House rejected a Pentagon plan to launch an air attack on Pyongyang's nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, because of the vulnerability of American troops on the border and the millions of civilians in nearby Seoul.

Once those troops have been removed, the US will be in a stronger position to use its vastly superior long-range weapons.

During a visit to Seoul by the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, this week, American officials said the redeployment would allow the US to start "taking down" North Korean troops within an hour of a conflict beginning, and to launch counter-strikes at Pyongyang.