SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said Monday it plans to boost its nuclear weapons program because of hostile U.S. policies toward the regime, and it called Washington’s criticism of its human rights record hypocritical.
In a separate statement today, North Korea said it would bolster its nuclear power industry to meet energy demands after the United States scrapped a project to provide it with power-generating reactors – the latest tirade to cast fresh doubt on efforts to resume six-nation talks to resolve an international dispute over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.
The North “will increase (its) self-reliant national defense capacity, including nuclear deterrent, pursuant to the Songun (military-first) policy, to cope with the U.S. escalated policy to isolate and stifle it with the nuclear issue and the ‘human rights issue’ as pretexts,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
Since the crisis began in late 2002, the United States, South Korea, Russia, Japan and China have sought to persuade Pyongyang to disarm in exchange for diplomatic recognition and aid.
In September, the North agreed in principle to do so, but implementation of the accord has stalled over new financial sanctions imposed by the United States to stem alleged illegal activities in North Korea, including counterfeiting and money laundering.
The two Koreas agreed in high-level talks last week to work to implement the September agreement. South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young traveled to Washington on Sunday seeking to restart negotiations.
In its statement today, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said the U.S. decision to halt construction on light-water nuclear reactors “compels (the North) to develop in real earnest its independent nuclear power industry.”
The facilities it mentioned – located at the North’s main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, about 55 miles north of Pyongyang – have been a focus of international suspicions over the North’s pursuit of nuclear bombs.
The North’s statement Monday came in response to a U.N. resolution adopted Friday expressing serious concerns about reports of human rights abuses in North Korea. The U.S. envoy for human rights in North Korea also this month visited the South for a U.S.-supported conference on the issue, where he called on Seoul to take a stand on the issue.