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DPRK to step up atomic bomb program and threatens war

THE Democratic People's Republic of Korea yesterday vowed to step up its atomic bomb-making program and threatened war if its ships were stopped as part of new United Nations sanctions aimed at punishing the nation for its latest nuclear test.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry also acknowledged for the first time that the country has a uranium enrichment program, and insisted it would never abandon its nuclear ambitions. Uranium and plutonium can be used to make atomic bombs.

The threats, in a statement issued through the official Korean Central News Agency, came a day after the UN Security Council approved new sanctions aimed at depriving the DPRK of the financing used to build its rogue nuclear program.

The UN resolution also authorized searches of North Korean ships suspected of transporting illicit ballistic missile and nuclear materials.

The sanctions are "yet another vile product of the United States-led offensive of international pressure aimed at undermining, disarming the DPRK and suffocating its economy," the North Korean statement said.

Pyongyang blamed Washington for the nuclear tensions, saying it was "compelled to go nuclear in the face of the US hostile policy and its nuclear threats."

Washington says it has no intention of attacking the DPRK and said its concern is that North Korea is trying to sell its nuclear technology to other nations.

Yesterday's threats made clear North Korea's refusal to back down from international calls to give up its nuclear ambitions in the wake of its April rocket launch and underground nuclear test last month.

North Korea's statement also raised concerns of a military skirmish.

"An attempted blockade of any kind by the US and its followers will be regarded as an act of war and met with a decisive military response," North Korea said.

As a precaution, South Korea has dispatched hundreds more marines to two islands near a western maritime border with North Korea that was the scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999 and 2002.

North Korea is believed to have about 50 kilograms of plutonium, enough for half a dozen bombs, Yoon Deok-min, a professor at South Korea's state-run Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, said yesterday.

Reprocessing 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods stored at North Korea's Yongbyon complex could yield an additional 8 to 10 kilograms of plutonium, enough to make at least one more atomic bomb, he said.

More than a third of the spent fuel rods have been reprocessed and the rest of its plutonium will be weaponized, North Korea said.

Those moves would mark a significant step away from a disarmament pact between North Korea and five other nations involved in the six-party talks in wake of its first nuclear test in 2006.

Under the deal, North Korea agreed to disable its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon north of Pyongyang in return for 1 million tons of fuel oil and other concessions.

In June 2008, North Korea blew up the cooling tower there in a dramatic show of its commitment to denuclearization. But disablement came to halt a month later as Pyongyang wrangled with Washington over how to verify its past atomic activities. The latest round of talks, in December, failed to push the process forward.

North Korea walked away from the talks in April after the Security Council condemned its April 5 rocket launch, seen by the United States, Japan and others as a cover for a long-range missile test.

North Korea has said it will test another long-range missile and is suspected of preparing for a third nuclear test, but there is no evidence that either plan is imminent.


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