Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

N. Korea says South nearing an act of war

It said that if Seoul stops any North Korean ship as part of a U.S.-led mission, it would respond militarily.

South Koreans carrying defaced pictures of North Korean leaderKim Jong Il join in a rally yesterday near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.
South Koreans carrying defaced pictures of North Korean leaderKim Jong Il join in a rally yesterday near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.Read moreAHN YOUNG-JOON / Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea's military leadership said early today that it considers South Korea's participation in a U.S.-led program to intercept ships suspected of spreading weapons of mass destruction tantamount to a declaration of war against the North.

It said it would respond with "immediate, strong military measures" if the South stops and searches any North Korean ships under the Proliferation Security Initiative.

The statement, carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency, said that, as a protest over the South's participation, North Korea no longer considers itself bound by the armistice that ended the Korean War.

South Korea announced its participation in the anti-proliferation program yesterday, one day after the North conducted a nuclear test.

In other bellicose acts yesterday, North Korea restarted its weapons-grade nuclear power plant and fired its sixth short-range missile.

North Korea's actions were in apparent response to criticism from around the world over its underground nuclear test on Monday.

The U.N. Security Council has begun debating possible new sanctions, but retaliatory options were limited, and no one was talking publicly about military action.

South Korea's mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that U.S. spy satellites had detected steam coming from a reprocessing facility at North Korea's main Yongbyon nuclear plant, indicating the North has restarted the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods to harvest weapons-grade plutonium.

Its report quoted unnamed officials. South Korea's Defense Ministry and the National Intelligence Service - the country's main spy agency - said they could not confirm the report.

The North had said it would begin reprocessing in protest over international criticism of its April 5 rocket launch.

North Korea also test-fired three short-range missiles yesterday, including one late at night, from the east coast city of Hamhung, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency. South Korea's spy chief confirmed two other missiles were launched Monday, but reports put the number at three Monday for a total of six.

More could be planned. North Korea has warned ships to stay away from waters off its west coast through today, suggesting more test flights.

In New York, U.N. diplomats said key nations were discussing a Security Council resolution that could include new sanctions against North Korea.

Ambassadors from the five permanent veto-wielding council members - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France - as well as Japan and South Korea met yesterday behind closed doors for more than an hour discussing possibilities for a new resolution.

The Security Council met in emergency session Monday and condemned the nuclear test.

France's deputy U.N. ambassador Jean-Pierre Lacroix said his government wanted a resolution to "include new sanctions . . . because this behavior must have a cost and a price to pay."

It was too early to say what those sanctions might be and whether China and Russia, both close allies of North Korea, would go along.

In an unusual step, China strongly reproached its close ally.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu reiterated that Beijing "resolutely opposed" the nuclear test. It urged Pyongyang to return to negotiations under which it had agreed to dismantle its atomic program.