North Korea talks tough after UN rocket rebuke

North Korea talks tough after UN rocket rebuke

North Korea swiftly lashed out against the UN Security Council's condemnation of its December launch of a long-range rocket, saying that it will strengthen its military defenses, including its nuclear weaponry, in response.

The defiant statement from North Korea's Foreign Ministry yesterday was issued hours after the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning Pyongyang's December 12 rocket launch as a violation of a ban against nuclear and missile activity.

The resolution also added to sanctions against the country.

The Foreign Ministry called the launch a peaceful bid to send a satellite into space rather than a test of long-range missile technology. It said North Korea "should counter the US hostile policy with strength, not with words."

The statement ominously warned that North Korea will "bolster the military capabilities for self-defense including the nuclear deterrence."

The wording "considerably and strongly hints at the possibility of a nuclear test," analyst Hong Hyun-ik at the private Sejong Institute think tank near Seoul said yesterday.

North Korea conducted nuclear weapons tests weeks after rocket launches in 2006 and 2009.

Satellite photos taken at nuclear test site in Punggye-ri last month indicated continued activity, even in winter, according to an analysis by 38 North, a North Korea website affiliated with the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies.

The Security Council on Tuesday reiterated a demand that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program in a "complete, verifiable and irreversible manner," and ordered it to cease rocket launches.

"Today's resolution also makes clear that if North Korea chooses again to defy the international community, such as by conducting another launch or a nuclear test, then the (Security) Council will take significant action," US Ambassador Susan Rice said.

The binding resolution is the first in four years to expand sanctions against Pyongyang.

It ordered the freeze of more North Korean assets, including the space agency, and imposed a travel ban on four more officials - limited sanctions that target individuals and specific companies.

Last month's rocket launch has been celebrated as a success in North Korea, and the scientists involved treated like heroes. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un cited the success of the launch in his New Year's Day speech laying out North Korea's main policies and goals for the upcoming year.

Washington and its allies consider the long-range rocket launch a covert test of ballistic missile technology, and suspect Pyongyang is working on mounting a nuclear warhead on a missile capable of striking the US.

North Korea claims the right to build nuclear weapons as a defense against the United States, which has stationed more than 28,000 troops in South Korea.

Six-nation disarmament negotiations hosted by China have been stalled since North Korea walked away from the talks following the UN punishment for its 2009 rocket launch.