N. Korea rhetoric draws stern reaction

North Korea’s Unha-3 rocket lifts off from the Sohae launching station in Tongchang-ri on Dec. 12. (Associated Press)
North Korea’s Unha-3 rocket lifts off from the Sohae launching station in Tongchang-ri on Dec. 12. (Associated Press)

China backs U.N. resolution; U.S. calls talk ‘provocative’

BEIJING – The United States and China reacted sharply to the latest torrent of belligerent language from North Korea, which called the U.S. its “archenemy” and said it planned to conduct another nuclear test despite international sanctions.

China called for renewed negotiations with Pyongyang, while the United States promised “additional steps” beyond the expanded sanctions adopted by the United Nations earlier in the week. The sanctions notably had the support of Beijing, suggesting growing frustration with its ally.

The two superpowers were reacting to a tirade issued Thursday by North Korea’s National Defense Commission that was provocative even by Pyongyang’s elevated standards.

Calling the United States the “archenemy of the Korean people,” the commission went on to say: “We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are targeted at the United States.”

“Settling accounts with the U.S. needs to be done with force, not with words,” it added. The statement was released by the official North Korean news service.

North Korea’s confrontational stand dampened hopes that the country might be following a more moderate course under its new, 30-year-old leader, Kim Jong Un, who took over 13 months ago following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney called the remarks from Pyongyang “needlessly provocative.” Carney said the recent U.N. Security Council resolution freezing assets and banning travel by North Korean officials should send a “strong message of the international community’s opposition to North Korea’s provocations.”

“The United States will be taking additional steps in that regard,” he said, but declined to say what those actions might be.

China took a surprising step on Tuesday by voting in favor of the Security Council resolution. On Thursday, Xi Jinping, the new head of the Chinese Communist Party, was quoted in major Chinese state newspapers recommending the resumption of six-nation talks that collapsed four years ago to address the North Korean nuclear program.

Impoverished but heavily armed North Korea already has conducted two nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009. After a botched missile launch last spring, it successfully launched a multistage missile in December, putting a satellite in orbit. Some experts considered the launch to be, in effect, a test of the country’s intercontinental ballistic missile technology, although others disagreed that a satellite launch could serve that purpose.

Analysts generally believe that North Korea is still many years away from a workable weapon that could reach the U.S., much less one armed with a nuclear warhead.

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