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North Korea Claims Re-Examination of Nuke Work Due to Antagonistic U.S.

North Korea on Friday announced it had no other option but to "re-examine" its nuclear weapons effort following new indications of an antagonistic U.S. policy toward the Stalinist state, Reuters reported (see GSN, July 19).

Pyongyang previously said it had no current plans to detonate a third nuclear device -- an action that the isolated country has been widely perceived to be readying.

The Friday statement by an unidentified Foreign Ministry official could mean the country intends to ramp up its nuclear weapons development.

"The consistent hostile policy towards the D.P.R.K. pursued by the U.S. is giving rise to the evil cycle of confrontation and tensions on the Korean Peninsula, making the prospect of denuclearizing the peninsula all the more gloomy," the North Korean spokesman said in remarks carried by state-controlled media. "The situation compels the D.P.R.K. to totally re-examine the nuclear issue."

Pyongyang is upset with an April decision by the Obama administration to cancel a planned food assistance shipment as punishment for the North's failed attempt to deploy a new satellite via a long-range rocket. The United States strongly objected to the rocket launch as illegal under U.N. Security Council resolutions that forbid North Korea from employing ballistic missile technology.

The food aid was to have been provided under a now-dead bilateral deal that would also have rolled back a number of North Korean nuclear weapons development-related activities. There had been hope that the agreement could lead to resumption of six-nation negotiations on North Korean denuclearization, which were last held in December 2008.

North Korea also opposes the military exercises the United States regularly holds in the region with allies South Korea and Japan. The drills are intended to discourage Pyongyang from mounting new armed hostilities (Jack Kim, Reuters, July 20).

Meanwhile, the Associated Press on Friday noted "unconfirmed intelligence reports" being circulated by a South Korean newspaper that former top-ranking North Korean military officer Ri Yong Ho might have been injured, perhaps fatally, in a gun battle after allied military personnel fought back against an armed effort to bring the ex-General Staff head into custody.

Ri was dismissed earlier this week in a move that foreign observers have widely concluded was a power play by ruler Kim Jong Un to bolster his own influence over the North's powerful military (Foster Klug, Associated Press/Google News, July 20).

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