NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 52 (April 30, 2009) |
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 3)
North Korea Threatens Nuclear, Missile Tests
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea threatened on April 29 that it will conduct nuclear and missile tests unless the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) "immediately" apologizes for its punitive actions against Pyongyang's April 5 rocket launch.
The statements marked the socialist country's first direct reference to the possibility of a second nuclear test, although it frequently alluded to taking such a step by saying it would bolster its nuclear deterrence. Its first nuclear test was conducted in 2006.
In a statement issued by a foreign ministry spokesman, North Korea also warned it will start building a light-water reactor and self-production of nuclear fuel, an indication that it will begin a uranium enrichment program.
"The UNSC should promptly make an apology for having infringed the sovereignty of the DPRK (North Korea) and withdraw all its unreasonable and discriminative 'resolutions' and decisions adopted against the DPRK," the unidentified spokesman said in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
"In case the UNSC does not make an immediate apology," the spokesman said, "the DPRK will be compelled to take additional self-defensive measures in order to defend its supreme interests. The measures will include nuclear tests and test-firings of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006.
The socialist state announced over the weekend that it has begun reprocessing the spent fuel rods from its main nuclear facility in Yongbyon. Seoul officials believe North Korea may be able to make one or two nuclear bombs with the plutonium extracted from about 8,000 spent fuel rods it currently has.
The 15-member U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a presidential statement on April 14 condemning North Korea's rocket launch as violating an earlier U.N. resolution banning its ballistic missile activity. The Security Council followed up by freezing foreign assets of three North Korean firms suspected of aiding the country's nuclear and missile activities.
North Korea says the U.N. action is unfair, claiming the launch was part of a peaceful space program to orbit a satellite. South Korea, the United States and their allies believe North Korea was actually testing its long-range missile technology.
In protest, Pyongyang withdrew from the nuclear disarmament talks and expelled international monitors.
The spokesman said the U.N. sanctions will never work on North Korea, which has been subject to "all sorts of sanctions and blockaded by the hostile forces" for decades.
"This (an apology) is the only way for it to regain confidence in the U.N. member nations and fulfill its responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, not serving as a tool for the U.S. highhanded and arbitrary practices any longer," the spokesman said.
The U.N. sanctions are tantamount to a "declaration of war" against North Korea, the spokesman claimed, saying an armistice the U.N. and the U.S. signed with North Korea and China to end the 1950-53 Korean War is no longer effective.
South Korea later responded to the North's threat, saying it poses a serious challenge to the international community.
"North Korea's statement directly challenges a unified and concerted decision by the international community," Moon Tae-young, spokesman for the South's Foreign Ministry, said in a statement issued after the ministry's emergency meeting presided over by Minister Yu Myung-hwan.
While calling for North Korea to abide by the U.N. decision and rejoin the six-way talks, Moon said the North should be responsible for the consequences, including the worsened geopolitical situation, as it ignored the world's efforts to resolve the nuclear crisis and curb proliferation.
The United States also urged North Korea to refrain from threats of further nuclear and ballistic missile tests and return to the six-party nuclear disarmament talks.
"Let me just say very clearly that these threats only further isolate the North," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said. "The North needs to come back to the table. And we are working with our partners to try to convince the North to do that."
At a separate news conference at the National Press Club, Mike Hammer, spokesman for the National Security Council, echoed Wood's theme. "I think what is important here is North Korea understands that if they are irresponsible, if they are provocative, the international community is united in wanting to see North Korea denuclearized," Hammer said.
Meanwhile, Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said North Korea is declaring that a nuclear test is certain to take place by demanding the impossible from the U.N. The UN Security Council has never apologized to a nation over its action. Only the U.S. can stop North Korea from the next move by proposing bilateral dialogue, Yang added.
"North Korea attached a condition that has no historic precedent and is impossible... a strong message that it will put its words into action," Yang said. "There is nothing that can stop this, except the U.S. starting dialogue with North Korea."
Under a landmark agreement with South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia in 2007, North Korea began disabling its Yongbyon nuclear facility that year. Pyongyang blew up the cooling tower at its main atomic reactor in Yongbyon in a show of its commitment to stop making plutonium for nuclear bombs. In response, the U.S. removed the North from its list of state sponsors of terror in October last year.
But the six-party talks have been stalled since late last year over how to inspect North Korea's nuclear facilities.