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(2nd LD) N. Korea says future nuclear test depends on U.S. attitude

2015/08/06 21:23

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details of press conference, background from 9th para)

By Lee Haye-ah

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug. 6 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Thursday that a future nuclear test by the communist country will depend on the attitude of the United States, accusing it of being "hell-bent" on toppling the North Korean regime.

Ri Tong-il, a spokesman for North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong, told a press conference on the sidelines of ASEAN-led meetings here that Pyongyang "has no other option" but to defend itself in the face of hostile U.S. policy.

"It depends on the attitude of the United States, and the U.S. is hell-bent on increased level of provocations in front of the door of the DPRK," the official said in English, using the acronym of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"Nobody will feel safe if somebody comes up with massive, more sophisticated nuclear weapons. Nobody will be safe and DPRK has no other option but to have self-defensive means to safeguard sovereignty, national dignity and to protect our people from nuclear disaster," he stressed.

Ri Tong-il, a spokesman for North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong, holds a press conference at the Putra World Trade Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Aug. 6, 2015. (Yonhap) Ri Tong-il, a spokesman for North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong, holds a press conference at the Putra World Trade Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Aug. 6, 2015. (Yonhap)

North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, in 2006, 2009 and 2013. Last year, it threatened to conduct a "new form" of nuclear test, prompting speculation it could be preparing to conduct another test based on uranium, not plutonium.

The spokesman warned that North Korea will continue to strengthen and increase its "already diversified with high precision miniaturized nuclear forces to operative level."

   North Korea's missile and nuclear programs have raised tensions in the region amid concerns it may soon develop the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on long-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

Some experts now warn that the communist nation's nuclear arsenal could expand to up to 100 bombs by 2020.

Ri also raised the issue of joint military drills between South Korea and U.S. and blamed them for North Korea's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons.

"They've been holding it since 1954, over 20,000 times, and you can calculate every year -- 365 times, 365 days -- that means one exercise every day, whatever the level of the exercises," he said. "So you conclude the denuclearization of Korean peninsula is gone already by this negative attitude of U.S."

   Last month's U.S.-led nuclear deal with Iran brought renewed attention to international efforts to end North Korea's nuclear program, but Pyongyang has made clear it is not interested in such negotiations.

On North Korea's rocket launches seen as a cover for missile tests, Ri asserted North Korea's right to conduct space research.

"This is sovereign right of DPRK and DPRK has stated already it will continue to launch satellites for science and economic development and these satellites will continue to fly into outer space with sovereignty, dignity and national pride of the country in the middle of blessing of international community," he said.

North Korea is widely expected to conduct another rocket launch in October to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers' Party.

All the members to the six-party talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear program have gathered at the ASEAN Regional Forum here where the North's nuclear and missile programs have been high on the agenda.

Many of the ARF's 27 members have strongly condemned North Korea's provocations and urged the communist nation to return to the stalled six-party talks involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S., according to officials attending the forum.

Ri formerly served as Pyongyang's deputy ambassador to the U.N.

The press conference, which is rare for North Korea, lasted about 30 minutes, including a question and answer session with reporters from various nations.