Sunday, June 14, 2009

North Korea Says Any U.S.-Led Blockade Would Be an Act of War

North Korea said any U.S. effort to enforce international sanctions over the communist nation’s nuclear program would be considered an act of war and be met with military force.

North Korea “strongly condemns and rejects” the United Nations Security Council’s Resolution 1874, the foreign ministry of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, said in a statement yesterday on the official Korean Central News Agency.

“No matter how hard the U.S.-led hostile forces may try all sorts of isolation and blockade, the DPRK, a proud nuclear power, will not flinch from them,” the statement said.

The Security Council two days ago unanimously approved a U.S.-backed resolution to punish North Korea for its May nuclear-bomb test and missile launches. The resolution authorizes stepped-up inspection of air or sea cargoes suspected of containing material usable in the development of nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles. The measure also calls for new restrictions on loans and money transfers to North Korea.

The vote followed almost three weeks of negotiations that began after North Korea detonated a suspected nuclear device on May 25, voided the 1953 armistice ending the Korean War and tested several missiles. Agreement on the text by China and Russia, two nations that previously resisted sanctions on North Korea, led to the Security Council consensus.

The UN resolution gives “the world community the tools we need to take action against appropriate action against the North Korean regime,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters at a joint appearance with Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon at Niagara Falls, New York. “The North Koreans’ continuing provocative actions are deeply regrettable.”

Uranium Enrichment

“We will weaponize all newly extracted plutonium and begin enriching uranium,” the official North Korean statement said. North Korea will also not give up its nuclear program, it said.

North Korea, which in 2002 denied U.S. allegations it had a highly enriched uranium program, has had success in developing enrichment technology, according to the statement. More than a third of spent fuel rods have been reprocessed for weapons-grade plutonium, it said.

North Korea has repeatedly warned that any move to seize its ships would be met with military retaliation. Kim Jong Il’s regime said it would no longer abide by the 1953 armistice after South Korea joined a U.S.-led initiative to curb weapons of mass destruction by seizing shipments.

Japanese Export Ban

Japan plans to ban all exports to North Korea in addition to sanctions agreed by the UN Security Council, the Nikkei newspaper reported yesterday, without saying where it got the information.

China warned of dangers involved in inspecting North Korean cargo under the Security Council sanctions, saying countries intercepting vessels should avoid armed action.

South Korea said it supports the Security Council resolution and urged the communist nation to return to the six- party disarmament talks.

Both Koreas have deployed military resources to their maritime border, the site of naval clashes in 1999 and 2002. South Korea dispatched a naval vessel equipped with anti-ship missiles and said it’s prepared to send fighter jets.

North Korea, which tested its first nuclear device in 2006, in April withdrew from six-party talks aimed at dismantling the nation’s nuclear-weapons program and expelled UN weapons inspectors. It fired short-range rockets after its May 25 nuclear detonation, and has warned of a third ballistic missile launch and a further nuclear test.

Clinton joined China and Russia in urging the government in Pyongyang to return to the nuclear disarmament talks.

‘Open Opportunity’

“The six-party framework, which the North Koreans left, turning their back on their obligations for denuclearization, is still an open opportunity,” Clinton said.

North Korea pulled out of six-nation disarmament talks with China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the U.S in April after the UN censured its launch of a ballistic missile. The impoverished communist state last week also launched six short-range missiles and may be readying more missile tests.