N. Korea Warns of Strike Against S. Korea, U.S.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
May 26: North Koreans are seen during a ceremony to celebrate the nation's underground nuclear test, in Pyongyang, North Korea.
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea launched a tirade Wednesday against world powers threatening to punish it for conducting its second nuclear test, saying it is not afraid of sanctions and calling South Korea's decision to join an operation to prevent the spread of weapons a declaration of war.
The North also has reportedly restarted its weapons-grade nuclear plant. It staged a rally in its capital, Pyongyang, on Tuesday to celebrate the test.
The isolated communist regime said through its official news agency that it would respond with military action if South Korea tries to stop or search any of its ships as part of the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative.
"Those who provoke (North Korea) once will not be able to escape its unimaginable and merciless punishment," the North's official news agency said.
South Korea decided to join the anti-proliferation initiative on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, South Korea's mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported Wednesday that U.S. spy satellites detected signs of steam at the North's Yongbyon nuclear complex, an indication that it may have started reprocessing nuclear fuel.
The report, which could not be confirmed, quoted an unidentified government official. South Korea's Yonhap news agency also had a similar report.
The move would be a major setback for efforts aimed at getting North Korea to disarm.
North Korea had stopped reprocessing fuel rods as part of an international deal. In 2007, it agreed to disable the Yongbyon reactor in exchange for aid and demolished a cooling tower at the complex.
The North has about 8,000 spent fuel rods which, if reprocessed, could allow it to harvest 13 to 18 pounds (six to eight kilograms) of plutonium — enough to make at least one nuclear bomb, experts said. North Korea is believed to have enough plutonium for at least a half dozen atomic bombs.
Further ratcheting up tensions, North Korea has test-fired five short-range missiles over the past two days, South Korean officials confirmed.
North Korea suggested that more missile tests could be planned, telling ships to stay away from waters off its west coast through Wednesday, according to South Korea's coast guard. (con't)