North Korea on Wednesday warned it would increase the scope of its nuclear weapons work in reaction to a yearly U.S.-South Korean military drill that began this week, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Aug. 16).
Tens of thousands of South Korean and U.S. military personnel are participating in the computer-assisted Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise. Pyongyang regularly objects to such war games and promises harsh retaliation.
"The U.S. is staging exercises for a war of aggression against its dialogue partner, while putting up a signboard of dialogue," a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman told state-controlled media.
The Obama administration last month held discussions with a North Korean delegation on possible avenues for relaunching long-stalled negotiations aimed at shuttering Pyongyang's nuclear program. The meetings in New York followed July talks between the top nuclear envoys from the two Koreas.
Washington and Seoul have both said they would not return to the six-party talks until they are of assured of the North's commitment to permanent nuclear disarmament, while the Stalinist state has said it would only return to negotiations if there are no preconditions.
"It is self-evident that (North Korea) should put spurs to bolstering its nuclear deterrent for self-defense both in quality and quantity to cope with this situation," the North Korean official said without supplying specifics on how Pyongyang would enhance its nuclear work.
The aspiring nuclear power is said to possess enough processed plutonium to fuel six warheads. The country also has a uranium enrichment program, which could provide it another path for producing weapon-usable material. Additionally, North Korea has an active ballistic missile development program though it is not yet apparent if the country has the ability to mount nuclear warheads on its missiles (Associated Press/Boston Globe, Aug. 17).