25 June 2009

N Korea warns of nuclear 'fire shower'

(SMH) -North Korea condemned a recent US pledge to provide nuclear defence of South Korea, saying on Thursday that the move boosts its justification to hold onto atomic bombs and invites a potential "fire shower of nuclear retaliation".

The salvo 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 US 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 UN resolution punishing Pyongyang's May 25 nuclear test, and as anticipation mounted that the North might test-fire short- or mid-range missiles.

The North's newspaper claimed in a lengthy commentary that the US "nuclear umbrella" commitment made it more likely for the US 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.

"It is as clear as daylight that South Korea cannot survive under that nuclear umbrella."

North Korea has long claimed that the US is plotting to invade it and has used the claim to justify its development of nuclear weapons.

On Wednesday, Pyongyang accused Washington of seeking to "provoke a second Korean War," saying it will "wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all".

The US has repeatedly said it has no intention of attacking the North.

The UN resolution seeks to clamp down on North Korea's trading of banned arms and weapons-related material by requiring UN member states to request inspections of ships carrying suspected cargo.

The US 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 UN punishments of North Korea for its nuclear test, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said.