SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea condemned a recent U.S.
pledge to provide nuclear defense of South Korea, saying Thursday
that the move boosts its justification to have atomic bombs and
invites a potential "fire shower of nuclear retaliation."
The commentary in Pyongyang's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper was
the North's latest reaction to last week's summit between President
Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. The allies
issued a joint statement committing the U.S. to defend the South
with nuclear weapons.
It also came as an American destroyer trailed a North Korean
ship suspected of shipping weapons in violation of a U.N.
resolution punishing Pyongyang's May 25 nuclear test, and as
anticipation mounted that the North might test-fire short- or
mid-range missiles in the coming days.
The North's newspaper claimed that the "nuclear umbrella"
commitment made it more likely for the U.S. to mount a nuclear
attack on the communist North, and only "provides us with a
stronger justification to have nuclear deterrent."
It also amounts to "asking for the calamitous situation of
having a fire shower of nuclear retaliation all over South Korea"
in case of a conflict, the paper said.
North Korea has long claimed that the U.S. is plotting to invade
it and has used the claim to justify its development of nuclear
weapons. The U.S. has repeatedly said it has no intention of
attacking the North.
In a separate editorial marking the 1950 outbreak of the Korean
War, the Rodong said the North "will never give up nuclear
deterrent ... and will further strengthen it" as long as
Washington remains hostile.
The war ended in 1952 with a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving
the peninsula divided and in a state of war. The U.S. has 28,500
troops in South Korea to protect against hostilities.
Ties between the two Koreas warmed significantly after the
first-ever summit of their leaders in 2000, but relations soured
after the conservative Lee took office last year.
The Rodong called Lee a "hound" of the U.S. "master" in
The new U.N. resolution seeks to clamp down on North Korea's
trading of banned arms and weapons-related material by requiring
U.N. member states to request inspections of ships carrying
North Korea has said it would consider interception of its ships
a declaration of war.
The U.S. has been seeking to get key nations to enforce the
sanctions aggressively. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
called the foreign ministers of Russia and China to discuss efforts
to enforce the U.N. punishments, State Department spokesman Ian
The Kang Nam is believed to be the first North Korean ship to be
tracked under the resolution. It left the North Korean port of
Nampo a week ago and is believed bound for Myanmar, South Korean
and U.S. officials said.
Myanmar state television on Wednesday evening said another North
Korean vessel was expected to pick up a load of rice and that the
government had no information about the Kang Nam.
A senior U.S. defense official said Wednesday that the ship had
already cleared the Taiwan Strait.
He said he didn't know how much range the Kang Nam has - whether
or when it may need to stop in some port to refuel - but that the
ship has in the past stopped in Hong Kong's port.
Another U.S. defense official said he tended to doubt reports
that the Kang Nam was carrying nuclear-related equipment, saying
the information officials have received seems to indicate the cargo
is conventional munitions.
The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they
were discussing intelligence.
The U.S. and its allies have not decided whether to contact and
request inspection of the ship, Pentagon press secretary Geoff
Morrell said Wednesday. He said he didn't believe a decision would
Reports about possible missile launches from the North
highlighted the tension on the Korean peninsula.
The North has designated a no-sail zone off its east coast from
June 25 to July 10 for military drills.
A senior South Korean government official said the ban is
believed connected to North Korean plans to fire short- or
mid-range missiles. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing
South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that the North may
fire a Scud missile with a range of up to 310 miles (500
kilometers) or a short-range ground-to-ship missile with a range of
100 miles (160 kilometers) during the no-sail period.
U.S. defense and counterproliferation officials in Washington
said they also expected the North to launch short- to medium-range
missiles. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss
North Korea had warned previously it would fire a long-range
missile as a response to U.N. Security Council condemnation of an
April rocket launch seen as a cover for its ballistic missile