North Korea threatens war over nuclear sanctions
NORTH Korea vowed yesterday to "weaponise" its atomic programme and threatened war if its ships were stopped as part of new UN sanctions aimed at punishing the nation for its latest nuclear test.
The rogue state's foreign ministry also acknowledged for the first time that the country had a uranium enrichment programme, and insisted it would never abandon its nuclear ambitions.
The threats, in a statement issued through the official Korean Central News Agency, came a day after the UN Security Council approved new sanctions aimed at depriving the North of the financing used to build its nuclear facilities.
The resolution also authorised searches of North Korean ships suspected of transporting illicit ballistic missile and nuclear materials.
The sanctions are "yet another vile product of the US-led offensive of international pressure aimed at undermining ... disarming DPRK and suffocating its economy," the North Korean statement said.
Pyongyang blamed Washington for the tensions, saying it was "compelled to go nuclear in the face of the US hostile policy and its nuclear threats."
Washington says it has no intention of attacking the North and its concern is that North Korea is trying to sell its nuclear technology to other nations.
Yesterday's threats made clear North Korea's refusal to bow to international calls to give up its nuclear ambitions in the wake of its April rocket launch and underground nuclear test last month.
"An attempted blockade of any kind by the US and its followers will be regarded as an act of war and met with a decisive military response," the North said.
As a precaution, South Korea has dispatched hundreds more marines to two islands near a western maritime border with North Korea that was the scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999 and 2002.
The tougher UN measures are a sign of growing global anger at North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons in defiance of the council, with even the North's closest allies, Russia and China, joining in unanimously approving the sanctions.
The resolution condemns "in the strongest terms" the North's 25 May nuclear test "in violation and flagrant disregard" of the 2006 sanctions resolution. US deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said the new resolution provided "a strong and united international response" to North Korea's test.
"The message of this resolution is clear: North Korea's behaviour is unacceptable to the international community and the international community is determined to respond," DiCarlo said. "North Korea should return without conditions to a process of peaceful dialogue."
North Korea's acknowledgment that it has a uranium-enrichment program appears to confirm that it has a second source of bomb-making materials in addition to plutonium. North Korea is believed to have about 110 pounds of plutonium, enough for half a dozen bombs.
Reprocessing 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods stored at North Korea's Yongbyon complex could yield an additional 18 to 22 pounds of plutonium – enough to make at least one more atomic bomb.
More than a third of the spent rods have been reprocessed and the rest of its plutonium will be weaponised, North Korea said.
Those moves would mark a significant step away from a disarmament pact between North Korea and five other nations in wake of its first nuclear test in 2006.
Under the deal, North Korea agreed to disable its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon in return for one million tons of fuel oil and other concessions. In June 2008, North Korea blew up the cooling tower there in a dramatic show of its commitment to denuclearisation.
But disablement came to halt a month later as Pyongyang wrangled with Washington over how to verify its past atomic activities. The latest round of talks, in December, failed to push the process forward.
North Korea walked away from the talks in April after the Security Council condemned its April 5 rocket launch, seen by many as a cover for a long-range missile test.
North Korea has said it will test another long-range missile and is suspected of preparing for a third nuclear test.
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