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North Korea warns US over aid move

18 April 2012, 10:43

Pyongyang - North Korea accused the US of hostility on Tuesday for suspending an agreement to provide food aid following Pyongyang's widely criticised rocket launch, and warned of retaliatory measures in response.

North Korea's foreign ministry also rejected the UN Security Council's condemnation of Friday's launch of a long-range rocket as "unreasonable", and reasserted the nation's right to develop a civilian space programme.

North Korea fired a three-stage rocket on Friday over the Yellow Sea in defiance of international warnings against what the US and other nations said would be seen as a violation of bans against nuclear and missile activity.

North Korean officials called the launch a peaceful bid to send an observation satellite into space, timed to commemorate the 100th anniversary Sunday of the birth of late North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. The launch was a failure, with the rocket splintering into pieces less than two minutes after take-off.

Condemnation was swift, with the US and others calling it a covert test of rocket technology that could be used to fire a long-range missile fitted with a nuclear warhead.

Washington immediately halted a plan brokered in February to provide North Korea with much-needed food aid in exchange for a suspension of its nuclear and missile programmes.

On Monday, the UN Security Council, including North Korea ally China, condemned the rocket launch as a violation of resolutions prohibiting North Korea from ballistic missile and nuclear activity, and directed its sanctions committee to strengthen penalties against the country.

Fault of US

Responding to the condemnation, North Korea accused the US late on Tuesday of leading a campaign to deny its right to develop its defence and civilian space programmes.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry vowed to press ahead with its space ambitions, and warned it would no longer adhere to the February agreement with the US.

"We have thus become able to take necessary retaliatory measures, free from the agreement," the ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. "The US will be held wholly accountable for all the ensuing consequences."

"Peace is very dear for us but the dignity of the nation and the sovereignty of the country are dearer for us," the statement said, without specifying what countermeasures North Korea might take.

North Korea also faced UN Security Council condemnation after launching a long-range rocket in 2009, and walked away from six-nation nuclear disarmament negotiations in protest.

Weeks later, North Korea conducted a nuclear test, its second, and revealed it had a uranium enrichment programme that could give scientists a second source for building atomic weapons.

- AP

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