SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea vowed on Monday to respond with an “annihilating” nuclear strike if its atomic facilities are attacked pre-emptively by the United States.
The Bush administration responded sternly, saying while it had no intention of attacking, it was determined to protect the United States if North Korea launched a long-range missile.
“Should North Korea take the provocative action of launching a missile the U.S. would respond appropriately, including by taking the necessary measures to protect ourselves,” State Department spokeswoman Julie Reside said.
Still, Reside said, the United States and other countries that have negotiated with North Korea are seeking a fundamentally different relationship with the reclusive regime. She said that relationship must be based on the complete and verifiable elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and nuclear program.
Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns warned North Korea against firing the missile and urged the communist country to return to six-nation talks on its nuclear program.
The six-party talks, suspended by North Korea, involved negotiations by the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia with Pyongyang over the country’s nuclear program.
North Korea’s warning effectively stepped up its anti-U.S. vitriol, in which it often accuses Washington of plotting an attack. The North has recently come under heightened scrutiny after reports by the United States and Japan that it has taken steps to prepare for a long-range missile test.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency, citing an unidentified “analyst” with the state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper, accused the United States of harassing Pyongyang with war exercises, a massive arms buildup and increased aerial espionage by basing new spy planes in South Korea.