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NUKEWARS
US condemns N. Korea over nuclear test threat
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Jan 24, 2013


N. Korea threatens rival South over UN sanctions
Seoul (AFP) Jan 25, 2013 - North Korea on Friday threatened "physical counter-measures" against rival South Korea -- the latest in a series of bellicose warnings sparked by a tightening of UN sanctions against Pyongyang.

"If the South Korean puppet regime of traitors directly participates in the so-called UN 'sanctions', strong physical countermeasures would be taken," the North's Committee for Peaceful Reunification of Fatherland said.

The warning, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, came a day after North Korea's top military body threatened to conduct a third nuclear test and boost its ability to strike the United States.

The latest warning re-focused Pyongyang's anger from Washington to Seoul.

"Sanctions amount to a declaration of war against us," said the committee, which is the prime state body responsible for inter-Korean dialogue and exchange.

"As long as the South Korean puppet traitors' regime continues with its anti-DPRK (North Korea) hostile policy, we will never sit down with them," it said.

The current upsurge in tensions has its roots in Pyonyang's defiant decision to push ahead with a long-range rocket launch on December 12 -- insisting it was a peaceful mission to place a satellite in orbit.

The rest of the world saw it as a banned ballistic missile test and on Tuesday the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution that expanded sanctions imposed on North Korea after its nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

The United States, supported by Japan and South Korea, spearheaded the UN resolution.

Pyongyang reacted furiously, vowing to boost its nuclear arsenal and to conduct a third nuclear test and even longer-range rocket launches in an "all-out action" against its "sworn US enemy".

The North's reaction poses an early challenge to both US President Barack Obama at the start of his second term, and to South Korean president-elect Park Geun-Hye, who takes office in one month's time.

Park has promised to push for further engagement with North Korea after a virtual five-year freeze in North-South relations during the term of outgoing President Lee Myung-Bak.

But the hawks in her ruling conservative party will leave Park little room for manoeuvre in the current climate, especially if Pyongyang follows through with a third nuclear test.

In Washington on Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney criticized the North Korean threat as "needlessly provocative" and stressed that any test would be a "significant violation" of UN Security Council resolutions.

The United States on Thursday denounced North Korea for threatening a third nuclear test and imposed new sanctions, in an early showdown for President Barack Obama's second administration.

North Korea, which defiantly put a satellite into orbit last month, had responded furiously to a unanimous vote at the UN Security Council that expanded the number of entities on an international blacklist.

White House spokesman Jay Carney criticized the North Korean statement as "needlessly provocative" and said that a nuclear test "would be a significant violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions."

"Further provocations would only increase Pyongyang's isolation, and its continued focus on its nuclear and missile program is doing nothing to help the North Korean people," Carney told reporters.

Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the United States was "fully prepared" for a test from Pyongyang.

"We remain prepared to deal with any kind of provocation from the North Koreans. But I hope... they determine that in the end, it is better to become a part of the international family," Panetta told reporters.

The United States has "no outward indications" that North Korea would carry out a test imminently, he said, but he cautioned that much about the totalitarian state was opaque.

"They have the capability, frankly, to conduct these tests in a way that makes it very difficult to determine whether or not they are doing it," Panetta added.

North Korea says its December 12 launch was a peaceful scientific mission.

Outside experts agree that Pyongyang succeeded in putting a satellite into orbit, but US officials charged that the launch was aimed at developing a ballistic missile that could reach America.

The United States, supported by Japan and South Korea, spearheaded the UN resolution. China, North Korea's main ally, backed the bid after lengthy negotiations in which it agreed to expand the number of entities under existing restrictions rather than create a new set of sanctions.

Undeterred by North Korea's anger, the United States added names to its own blacklist that freezes any US-based assets of designated individuals and groups and makes it a crime for anyone in the United States to assist them.

The State Department blacklisted the Korean Committee for Space Technology, which carries out Pyongyang's rocket launches, and two related individuals.

The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a Hong Kong-based trading company, Leader (Hong Kong) International Trading Ltd, which it accused of assisting shipments for North Korea's main arms dealer.

It also blacklisted two Beijing-based representatives from the Tanchon Commercial Bank, which it said was the financial arm of Korea's Mining Development Trading Corporation, accused of missile transactions with Iran.

The showdown is deja vu for Obama, who took office in 2009 pledging to reach out to US adversaries but four months later was outraged as North Korea carried out its second nuclear test.

The administration has since held out limited hope for changing North Korean policy. It has described its stance as "strategic patience," with the United States unwilling to make gestures until Pyongyang addresses concerns.

Senator John Kerry, whom Obama named as his next secretary of state, has previously championed engagement with North Korea, including one-on-one talks and food assistance to address reported widespread hunger in the country.

Kerry spoke little about the issue in his confirmation hearing Thursday but said that the United States should speak out "for the prisoners of gulags in North Korea."

Satellite images have indicated that North Korea is pressing ahead with its nuclear program, an emblem of pride and deterrence for Kim Jong-Un's regime.

James Acton, a nuclear expert and physicist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that North Korea may want to test with uranium.

"I don't think it's guaranteed that it's uranium, but I think it's probable that it will be a uranium device just to see if they've got that working," he said.

Pyongyang disclosed in November 2010 to visiting US scientists that it was operating a uranium enrichment plant, giving it a second way to build bombs after using plutonium for its two tests.

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North Korea said Thursday it planned to carry out a third nuclear test and more rocket launches aimed at its "arch-enemy" the United States in response to tightened UN sanctions, but offered no timeframe. "We do not hide that the various satellites and long-range rockets we will continue to launch, as well as the high-level nuclear test we will proceed with, are aimed at our arch-enemy the U ... read more


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